Janet has generously offered to share some great information on creating a corporate policy — so much great info, in fact, that we’ve split it into two parts. You can find Part I of this series right here.
Last week we introduced you to some of the early places to start crafting a solid corporate social media policy, from how to get started with your own internal team to encouraging employee transparency and individuality online. This week we’ll wrap up the series and get you on your way to creating a comprehensive social media policy that takes into account your company’s goals, your audience’s needs, and your employee’s concerns.
Decide how people are allowed to represent the company
News agencies like the CBC direct their journalists to avoid friending their news sources on their Facebook page. It may seem silly that they even think of doing so, but it’s happened. It’s also important not to list private information that could potentially put home and family at risk in the case of a political or criminal story, like home address and family data.
The BBC differentiates how their staff responds to a post on a BBC-owned site. “It should be clear to users whether the site they are interacting with is a BBC page run by the BBC for BBC purposes or whether this is a personal page run by an individual for their own purposes.” In fact, they strongly recommend that BBC blogs should be published on BBC Online and kept under the purview of “Divisional Social Media Representatives”.
Dealing with negativity
You are bound to see a negative comment or two at some point. How you deal with these is crucial to your success in the social circle you are engaging in. Sticking your head in the sand only allows the problem to persist until it’s too big to ignore. Getting defensive and striking back is also a bad way of handling negativity. Look at the recent palm oil incident with Nestlé on Facebook. People actually boycotted Nestlé for the Easter holiday season, and a good number of the “fans” on their fan page signed up just to castigate them for destroying the rain forest!
Don’t let things get out of hand. Imagine that the person who is being negative is standing at your customer service counter with a complaint. What would you do? Turn them away without helping them? Or try to calmly and rationally explain the issue and correct the situation?
Create use policies for your forums, groups or blogs that state clearly and simply the rules for moderation. Something like, “We encourage you to comment and we welcome all viewpoints, but please be constructive. We reserve the right to moderate comments and posts and remove statements of hate or vulgarity.”
On the other hand, just because a comment is negative doesn’t mean it should be deleted. Is the comment valid? If so, perhaps it would be appropriate to thank them for bringing an issue to your attention and report back on how it was resolved. When you listen to and engage your customers like this they may become the best evangelists you’ve ever had. They’ll tell everybody that you responded politely and helped them when they didn’t expect it.
Copyrights and attribution
Before using any images, video, music, or documents found on the Internet, make sure you’ve looked for and understand the copyrights on that piece of work. Look for images that are under a creative commons license, purchase stock photos with limited use rights, or request permission from the copyright holder.
The digital rights management issues of the music and film industries is particularly controversial and has led to a number of high-profile lawsuits and fines. Best to avoid that potential nightmare by using only legally obtained and approved files.
In addition, it’s important to understand the rights of online written content. Just because you found it on Google does not make it free. Using short excerpts of content with a link to the original piece is generally accepted, but it’s a good idea to get permission for long quotes or excerpts.
Encourage user participation
One of the goals here is, of course, to encourage your clients and online connections to engage and help you spread the word about what you do. This engagement may take the form of user-groups, forums, blog comments, or even blogging for the company. One example of this is the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. The hospital encourages parents and family members of patients to share the story of their child’s experience, the care they were given, or or even give kudos to a staff member who went out of his or her way. These stories humanize the hospital and allow the parents to help spread the word about their experiences.
Corporate strategies are not just for big corporations. Take the Fellowship Church, which has maintained a blog since 2004, and Brian Bailey, who wrote a book called “The Blogging Church” and crafted the blogging policy for church staff. They recommend the following disclaimer on the staff’s personal blogs: “I work at Fellowship Church. Everything here, however, is my personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Fellowship Church.”
All this sounds like work, and it is, but once this work is done you can kick back and have fun with it. Sending out stuffy announcements and press releases is not going to engage people and get them to want more. Have fun with your posts and show your passion. Set up a series of themes, maybe even an editorial calendar to keep things rolling and the ideas flowing. Don’t sell. Inform, entertain, and engage.
Don’t forget to tell people
Take the time to have a meeting with your staff and go over your policies. Better yet, have them help you create them. They’re much more likely to buy into something they helped craft, and a little outside perspective from them will add value. Talk to your staff and listen to their input. Fine tune if you need to based on their feedback. When you have a new hire, take a few minutes to discuss any questions and concerns they have.
Periodically take a step back to look at what you’ve been doing and the effect it’s had on your company and the public perception of it. Review how others are transmitting your message on their own networks. Does it sound like you’re communicating successfully? Look at your benchmarks frequently to see how your policy is doing and where you need to do more or less. It’s natural for this kind of campaign to need tweaking now and again, and it’s important you regularly revisit both your guidelines and strategy.
Janet Fouts is a social media coach, author, trainer, and frequent speaker on social media and online marketing.