Social Media Policy Design Guidelines:
There has been an active brainstorming among business circles and government entities about implementation of social media in their organizations. Most of them hold certain level of understanding in using Facebook or Twitter for personal pursuits. But the real challenge lies in ‘what to’, ‘how to’ when it comes to using those tools in official context. On one end there has been an ever increasing usage of social media tools and the other end there is an indiscriminatory freedom exercised by Internet users in using social media platform. The situation has precipitated government contemplate possible curbs through social media policy on wishful and vandalizing use of social media by some people hurting the dignity, sentiments and honor of people, religion or businesses.
Social Media is an inevitable evolution. It is like a cream in the milk or cream on the milk. The milk here is Internet and the cream is Social Media which means social media is an integral part of Internet and it will always stay along Internet. The crux lies in extracting the cream from the milk and appropriately converting it into a valuable product and panacea.
My pointer here is about developing a social media policy framework, creating transparent processes and enabling best practices and producing social media evangelists in the organization so that people shall be able to constructively use social media for a chosen purpose.
How to design a Social Media Policy Framework:
Social Media Policy design for any given purpose is always contextual to an organization and objective. Similarly even a social media policy might differ from organization to organization. However, social media policy for any organization must contain answers to the following provisions or any related ones.
i. Description and definition
This section of the policy should define as to what is Social Media, its relevance to the organization; benefits of use and case studies where Social Media was effectively used entailing business benefits.
What is the primary objective of your organization in using social media? What are the supplementary or ancillary objectives? The objective could be online reputation management, could be marketing and promotion of your services, or information dissemination if yours is a service entity. The objective may vary from organization to organization or even within an organization from department to department. The objective must be very clear so that the users in the organization shall know the boundaries of using social media.
iii. Tools to be used
What are the tools proposed to be used in the process? We have tools viz., (a) social media campaign launching vehicles like Facebook and Twitter, (b) Social Media profile design tools, (c) content creating and content sharing platform like Wikis and Blogs, (d) Video marketing tools like YouTube & Vimeo and (e) Performance evaluation tools like Web Analytics.
Name the recommended tools clearly indicating what the paid tools are and what the free tools are.
iv. Technology preference
In your pursuit you have the option to use:
(a) Blogging software like WordPress, Blogger
(b) Content management System based on Joomla or other CMS
(c) Enterprise 2.0 software or Social Enterprise Applications from IBM, Yammer, HubSpot, Igloo and many more. One even can go for designing a customized platform using open source technologies saving considerable investment on tools.
v. Procedures of use
Tools are many. How to use them? Social Media Policy should talk about the tools vs. purpose. Provide links to tutorials on using recommended tools. Get your team trained and indicate in the policy the details of authorized agency for training and consulting.
vi. Content policy
The benefit and risk of using social media lies in the content created and shared through various tools. Content for blogging, content for micro blogging, and content shared through tweets should be carefully guarded for its authenticity, veracity, and benefit of use. The policy must provide guidelines towards creating right content and identify people or hierarchy who would hold control in generating, screening and distributing content.
For example, if the company aims to launch a product promotion campaign the people concerned should know the (a) extent of information that could be shared with public, (b) the kind of commitment to be made with respect to price, offers, delivery, service, warranty, and many other related information, (c) type of reply content to users’ responses.
Every single word that goes on official channels should be carefully thought out with no misgivings as it is never possible to recall your tweet or shared content once it goes off your channel.
vii. Content filtering list
The policy should stipulate the list of words that should not be used in publicly shared content. Call it keywords, tags or block listed words.
viii. Nodal authority
Name the person who is responsible in directing, implementing, and controlling policy provisions. Users in the organization would need this as any new policy will create confusion, scare or over cautious behavior among people unless proper post-policy and pre-implementation guidance is given.
ix. Delegation of power
Name a person or position in each department who will be responsible to oversee social media policy implementation and ensure the usage of social media inline with the policy provisions and campaign objectives. This person again will be guided by the nodal authority who controls organization wide policy implementation.
x. Brand protection
Brand in the context is the organization’s logo, mission statement, vision statement, objectives, patents and other identity assets. People across organization should use brand assets in a uniform way. The size of the logo, the placement of brand objects on a campaign page and indication of copyright statement and so.
The policy should identify and name an internal department or external agency who will create uniform template for social media profile, social media page for company or digital documents for sharing in the campaign.
xi. Performance metrics
How to judge the performance of any given campaign? What are the performance metrics? The policy may not spell performance metrics for each and every department. However, it should name the cardinal and common metrics that are important to be achieved by each and every campaign launched in the organization.
For example (a) % increase in the participatory responses by stakeholders (b) online buzz about your company’s campaign (c) campaign landing page hits (d) campaign specific performance metrics like sales leads generated for a sales campaign, number of resumes collected or people recruited for a recruitment campaign.
xii. Risk mitigation
Notwithstanding the content screening and campaign control in place, there might come a situation where an irrelevant or damage causing content is shared. The risk may be severe or moderate. Identify the person or department who will be responsible for damage control or risk mitigation measures with lightning speed.
xiii. Analytics and reporting
Campaign performance is mostly visible through the analytics. Name the tool to be used for the purpose. Optionally the policy should provide a reporting template common for any campaign. If you are using an Enterprise 2.0 application you will have an exhaustive reporting tool which will provide you custom query results or report. Otherwise, you can use Google Web Analytics for the purpose.
Your social media policy should define these aspects in clear terms to educate the campaign managers.
xv. IP Protection
While using the names and brand assets of partner organizations, or other stakeholders, campaign should properly acknowledge such things. Check the naming conventions used in domain name, blog name, keywords, tags and in your content to ensure that you don’t violate someone’s IP rights. Talk clearly about not violating the trademark, IP rights of your organization or stakeholder organization.
xvi. Professional ethics
Professional ethics are widely spoken words in today’s business context. Define in your social media policy things like response time for a given query from customer, commitment management, respectful communication and language and schedule discipline to be followed. There could be many more aspects to be deliberated in the context of your organization. Let your people know all such important provisions so that your campaign can adhere to professional ethics.
xvii. Legal mechanism
Name a legal authority or representing authority in your organization who will respond to legal initiatives that are moved by others against your organization owing to an alleged lapse or violation in the campaign.
xviii. Redressal route
At times one of your campaign team member and a stakeholder client might entangle in provocative or uncalled for interactions. The policy should address the measures required in both the cases where either your employee demands justice and more sensitively your client or stakeholder is highly annoyed. Provide procedures to handle such situations.
xix. Pilot platform
The policy preferably should showcase a pilot platform on using social media in the organization. The platform should help as a case study for training your team, producing social media evangelists for your organization or as a practice session for them before they go working on live campaign.
xx. Best Practices
Your social media policy should provide annexed documents on the best practices in content management, best practices in using social media tools, and best practices for social media engagement. Each campaign should follow best practices coupled with transparent and controlled processes so that exit route will be easier whenever so required.
xxi. Exit route
May be your organization for any reason would not like to continue with a given social media campaign. Policy should talk about the procedures of exit like:
(a) Communication to all the stakeholders like clients, agencies involved, partners, internal departments and so.
(b) Communication to people who participated in your campaign.
(c) Protection of stakeholder information and customer data like emails, addresses, images or any other transaction data.
(d) Analytic data gathered during the campaign.
(e) History log or chronology of campaigns launched.
(f) Honoring of commitments made to stakeholders during the campaign
(g) Redirection of campaign URLs to a new source or a specific landing page which would inform them about the closure of campaign and direct them appropriately to a new source.
(h) Any other relevant information.
I tried to give a draft framework to design Social Media Policy for an organization. The provisions indicated by me are not exclusive. As I have referred to above, organizations should study the requirement in their respective context and objective.
If you need any support in designing a policy for introduction of social media in your organization may please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.