With social media as common as it is, you would expect that adequate social media policies would be almost as common. Though most companies now have some form of social media policy, the problem is that many of them are not adequate in addressing the risks as compared to the rewards for a company.
I commonly get asked “why even have a social media, after all most everyone is on social media now and knows how to appropriately use it. I mean there are very few policies now that cover how to use the phone at work, right?” It is true that many people are using social media and no, I don’t know of any company who still has a phone policy. But a company should still have a social media policy because the use of social media has the potential to either intentionally or unintentionally put a company at risk.
After reviewing a number of company social media policies from small businesses, large international firms, education institutions and systems, and government agencies, I found that some of them tend to be very punitive where others are virtually no existent. But what were the best practices among social media policies? The same as any good experience – they are useful, usable, and even enjoyable.
- They are useful. Good social media policies start by providing the necessary fence lines for employees and customers, but they are not overly prescriptive. Coca Cola’s social media principles does just that. Second, different social media channels are different and need to be treated that way. Useful social media policies cover all of the major social media platforms and allow for nuances among them. Third, they are specific only where they need to be, such as what constitutes disclosure of confidential information or who can answer questions for them. Hill & Knowlton’s social media policy is really specific only where it needs to be. Lastly, they dovetail with other policies such as HR, Marketing, and IT where necessary.
- They are usable. First, they are short. The best policies are generally three to seven pages long and easy to find content in. For example, the Australian National Botanical Gardens social media policy is four pages long. Second, they include best practices in using social media like what type of content is appropriate, ideas around grammar and spelling, templates for different types of content and channels, and even how to do somethings like load a video on to YouTube.
- They are enjoyable. Ever read a company policy that was long then a page? Me neither, unless I had insomnia. The reason is because they are filled with all this legal mumbo-jumbo that would put anyone to sleep. The best social media policies understand the media and therefor are creative in how they are presented and can be used. For example, Edmunds uses a great infographic that plays on a car theme. Nordstrom’s social media policy clearly fits the culture of Nordstrom’s.
Good social media policies encourage your employees and customers to engage with one another in a responsible manner. But if you want them read and implemented, then you need to make them useful, usable, and enjoyable.