According to our research on social media law, 81% of UK businesses have a social media policy in place. In my experience though, it isn’t enough to just have a policy. You need to lift the details off the page and make them part of the company ethos and culture.
Social media is accessible to everyone – all your employees, customers and suppliers. That means you need to think about how you disseminate your guidelines. How to tell staff out on the road or in-store, as well as staff who manage company profiles every day.
Social is so pervasive, accessible and connected that you need to do more than just issue the policy. A full internal communications programme is essential. At our recent social media law event, presentations by solicitors suggested it was essential to prove that a policy was communicated to staff. It will protect your company should you find yourself in an employment tribunal where social is at the core of the argument.
But even then there are some quirks to social media that mean it is not enough to just communicate the policy – you need to go one step further. Here are my top three pieces of advice:
1. Don’t stop at a training course
Training courses in social media lay the foundations. Better still; tailor the course to your policy and you can embed best practice at the start. But training is not enough for two reasons:
- Social media keeps changing. Not just the technology, but customer behaviour changes. Sometimes very quickly
- Those active in social media, whether for work or for personal use, can get caught in the moment and slip into bad habits or bend guidelines
In reality this means regular communications, meetings and mentoring. The best way to manage this is to create a cross functional working group of senior people. Issues and changes can be discussed as well as programmes and communications refreshed. Better still, feedback and revisions to the policy will keep it fresh and relevant.
Nothing brings a policy to life better than playing out possible scenarios. Allow teams to ask the question ‘what if?’ and problem solve as a group. This allows you to create simulations of likely issues or play out potential social media crises. What is interesting about this kind of dress rehearsal is that it also helps refine your policy, as well as fix the guidelines in the heads of participants.
2. Integrate into personal development plans
Social media requires you to take personal responsibility. Because of the real-time nature of social, those networking daily for the company often have to act quickly and make decisions autonomously. And whilst you can protect the business with employment contracts, no one wants to wait until the incident has happened to then try and rectify the situation.
Again it is important to make your guidelines part of the everyday. The best way to do this is to make them part of professional development plans and appraisals. Bring them up in team meetings and make individuals responsible for elements of your policy.
3. Think beyond your employees
Talking with senior people at a brand recently, we uncovered that one of the biggest vulnerabilities to organisations was the conversations being had by suppliers and partner organisations. It seems that not all those connected with the business had a policy in place, and not all made it clear what they could and could not make public. Given that our research shows that 76% of companies fear the discloser of confidential information on social networking sites, then this is one gap that needs plugging.
So my last piece of advice is that you also need to think about how you need to extend your policy beyond your organisation.
I presented some of these thoughts at our recent social media law event. I have shared the deck below as the slides summarise some further thoughts on lifting your social media policy off the page.