Author: Sarah Rasmussen
Regardless of whether you or your organization sees value in participating in social media, you still need a policy – lack of one is simply not an option.
Why? Because whether your organization is actively participating or not, it’s highly likely someone connected with you is – your employees, vendors, partners, customers, and/or competitors. At a minimum, you need to provide guidance to employees and have a way to monitor the conversations taking place.
This was just one key point that fellow PRSA Colorado member, Glen Turpin, and I made as speakers on a teleconference hosted by PRSA’s Corporate Communications Section last week. In Creating a Solid Corporate Social Media Policy, Glen and I offered recommendations on items to consider and questions to ask as you’re developing a policy. We avoided giving a list of rules, though, as every organization is different.
For the last two years, Glen’s led the charge on developing a social media policy for his large, publicly-traded employer. He’s learned a lot in the process and had some interesting insights for the participants.
From my work at MGA, I have a slightly different perspective – I developed our policy and have worked with other staff and clients in developing social media policies and plans.
There were two key points I made early on in the discussion:
1. Perspective. Look at your company's involvement (and employee participation) in social media from several angles, both on company sites and on third-party sites.
2. Policy v. plan. They are not the same! A policy comes first and sets the parameters of how you’re going to be involved in social media. Your policy describes how you’re going to act in those spaces – what your voice is, how you’ll respond to negative comments/criticism and what topics are off-limits. Additionally, it should address issues such as transparency, confidentiality and disclosures of client/partner relationships.
A plan, on the other hand, is, well, a plan – it defines which sites you’re going to be on, outlines your content, and has a timeline, perhaps a budget. It includes the tactical “how to” of your social media work. It might be easy to come up with the plan first, but don’t skip the policy.
I attended a lunch last week focused on social media for beginners. One of the speakers encouraged everyone in the audience to go home right away and “get on Facebook.” If they weren’t on Facebook, this person claimed, they were literally missing out on "thousands" of business opportunities.
I almost fell out of my chair. First, I feel strongly about having employees distinguish for themselves how they will use different platforms - what's appropriate for business connections (I would say LinkedIn) v. how and where you'll connect with friends and family. Secondly, there are too many people preaching this type of social media engagement – “do it and do it now!”
Don’t fall into this trap. Take the time to have some honest and challenging discussions with your executives (and yourself). You don’t need to have a CEO blog, a Facebook page or a corporate Twitter account. What you must do, though, is have a policy.