Essentials of an effective social media policy

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One of the most amazing phenomena of recent times is the growth of social media. Today one in every nine people on earth is on Facebook. Twitter handles 1.6 billion queries every day while adding approximately 500,000 new users every month. Google + added 10 million users just in span of 15 days from the day it was launched.  While enterprises are leveraging social media to influence and reach out to customers, there are also new challenges they need to address as reputations could be made or broken in social networks within hours. Today people tend to share all kinds of information on social media and many times these could be issues related to their work and the organizations they work for. So, the challenge of ensuring that the right messages go out on social media is as much internal as it is external.

Considering that most of your employees are on social media today it is important that you have a social media policy, which ensures that your external communication objectives are not compromised.

Globally, organizations woke up to the social media challenge quite early and a number of them, like Intel, Best Buy, IBM and Coca Cola among others already have social media guidelines in place. Many of these sample policies are also available in the public domain. Some of them are comprehensive and address the minutest of the concerns of the organization about social media and a few are relatively simple and less restrictive than others. While the publicly available sample policies and guidelines as also preachy pieces will give you some idea of how you can go about a framing your own policy, I believe that for any good social media policy to be effective it will have to address a few basic concerns. In my view there are six essentials you have to consider while laying out social media guidelines for your employees.

Keep it simple: The simpler the guidelines are, the easier it is for your employees to adhere to them. Complexity tends to lead to confusion and confusion will not achieve your objectives.

Involve all key stakeholders: Discuss the social media policy with all key stakeholders including legal, HR, Internal and external communication teams before you lay down the guidelines

Identify the spokespersons:  Clearly identify the people in the organization authorized to carry out official announcements in social media. Just as you have spokespersons for addressing press, investors and other stakeholders you need a spokesperson for social media also. Let it also be known that only authorized representatives of the company can start official social media pages or Twitter handles

Define sharable Information: While the normal tendency will be to disallow employees from sharing any company related information, every employee of yours on social networks is a potential brand ambassador. When you want your message to reach far and wide asking employees to retweet your corporate/product tweet or sharing your Facebook post or YouTube video, it might go a long way.

Define boundaries: Clearly list the type of documents or information employees are not supposed to share on social media.

Training Employees: Incorporate the social media policy into your induction policy and train employees in using social media responsibly.