Update: Interested in creating a social media policy for your workplace? Request a free consultation to get started.
A social media policy is a powerful resource to guide employee use of new media, earn buy-in from internal stakeholders, and get everyone to read from the same playbook.
So how do you craft a social media policy?
Policy vs. Strategy
First, let me be clear: I’m not talking about a social media strategy. I could write an entirely different post about identifying objectives, defining target audiences, choosing tactics, and measuring results (or you could read Mack’s post).
This post is about social media policy — a set of guidelines (and, yes, even rules) that help employees understand acceptable vs. unacceptable, encouraged vs. discouraged, best practices, opportunities and risks.
There’s no blueprint: Your social media policy should be unique to your corporate culture. Here are some steps to consider:
Involve Stakeholders Throughout the Enterprise
Social media isn’t just for corporate communications. There are ample benefits for HR, sales, accounting, product development, executive and operations. Involve these people early so you craft a policy that encourages innovation and reflects the strengths and limitations of those departments. A social media administrator who can bring the parties together is a good start.
Set Aside “You Can’t Do That” Thinking
You’ve heard the mantras about “If you always do what you’ve always done…,” right? Social media is a new-ish approach to business. It enables new forms of collaboration, new approaches to problem-solving, and new ways to increase efficiency. “You can’t do that!” is our default response, a knee-jerk posture we instinctively deploy as a defense against discomfort. Hear it, recognize it, accept it, and set it aside. Then, proceed.
Acknowledge Today’s Paradigms, But Plan for Tomorrow’s
Don’t draft a policy that reflects how you’ve done business for the last 100 years. Instead, think about the next 100 years. Technology, cultures, and human behaviors change. Is your policy flexible enough to adapt as the world around you evolves?
Consider these questions:
- Is it conceivable that, one day, many or most of your employees could work from home?
- Does a “9-5″ workforce still meet the needs of a “24/7″ consumer?
- Does blocking Facebook achieve anything when employees can still access it on their phones?
- Can someone in your personal network solve a problem faster than someone in your office?
The world changes, and the pace of change is getting faster. How you did business yesterday may be obsolete tomorrow. Create a social media policy that’s flexible enough to be relevant at every tomorrow.
Err Toward Innovation
The lawyers will have my neck for this one…
Creating a social media policy is a sensitive balancing act. Legal wants to minimize risk. PR wants to spread the word. Customer service wants a simpler, more cost-effective solution. Sales wants to fill the pipeline. IT wants to help, but doesn’t have the resources you need.
The CEO wants to hedge his bets, but shouldn’t.
Since the dawn of commerce, more companies have failed for lack of innovation than because of legal liabilities. Yes, be compliant with the law. Yes, know your risks. But there’s a difference between knowing your risks and deferring to them. Err to flexibility, toward encouraging new ideas and new models, and your people will astound you with their talents.
Know the Technology — But Don’t Legislate For It
Social media isn’t just Facebook and Twitter. It includes blogs you write, blogs you read, comments on blogs, niche groups and communities, file and link sharing, collaboration (wikis and other tools), applications, mobile platforms and more.
Many corporate social media policies are crafted in a vacuum, of sorts — that is, they’re written with an incomplete awareness of social media’s scope. A good policy starts with an awareness of social media’s breadth, accommodates the rapid evolution of the technology, and stays technology- or platform-neutral.