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Ho Ho Hold that Post: 10 Tips for Writing a Social Media Policy

"Ho ho hold it! 10 tips for social media policies" holly leaves and snowflake

Ah, the holidays! Parties, potlucks, charitable events… There’s no better time of year to give your customers and prospects a look inside your organization. But, of course, not everything that takes place now—or throughout the year—is appropriate for posting. That video of your VP of Sales singing karaoke after he’s had one too many glasses of wine at the holiday dinner may seem like great social media material in the moment. However, the next day you might realize that it has cast that person, and your organization, in a negative light.

The Right Amount of Restriction

One of the things that makes social media posts so engaging for your audience is that they are more informal and (may appear) more spontaneous than your other communications. While nobody would suggest your updates should be run through the kind of review process that, say, a white paper is, it’s a good idea to have some guidelines on who can publish posts, the kind of topics that should and should not be posted, etc.

Here are some tips for crafting your social media policy:

  1. Get cross-departmental input. Groups within your organization are likely to have different social media wants and needs. Be sure to take them all into consideration.

  2. Cover the obvious. It may go without saying that social media posts should not include content (or links to content) that is indecent, harassing or inflammatory, but we suggest you include it in your policy anyway, just to be safe. Some people may not have the level of social sensibilities that you would expect. And others may want to push the boundaries and then claim they didn’t see anything in the policy relevant to their post.

  3. Include company and personal components. Your policy should address both the use of corporate social media accounts and the mention of the company through personal accounts. While people have the right to say whatever they want to on their personal accounts, they should be made aware of the potential professional ramifications. They should also be encouraged to indicate in their posts that the views expressed are their own and don’t reflect those of their employer.

  4. Include rules regarding intellectual property. It’s not uncommon for well-meaning social media users to unwittingly post trade secrets and intellectual property that should not have been shared. Make sure your policy addresses this.

  5. Respect names and copyrights of others. While your social media users may feel that any mention of a customer or partner is good for that organization, said organizations may disagree. Your policy should require that posters have permission from those about whom they are posting. Similarly, your staff should respect the copyrights of others.

  6. Incorporate external regulations. In many industries there are regulations on what kinds of information can be made public. In healthcare, for example, there are strict privacy rules. Be sure your policy spells this out.

  7. Include a crisis management plan. Social media is a great way to share information quickly, and therefore can be very helpful in a crisis situation. However, the wrong information—or information shared the wrong way—can quickly take a situation from bad to worse.

  8. Get a lawyer’s opinion. When you’ve completed your policy, it’s best if you can have it reviewed by a lawyer who is well versed in communication rights and responsibilities.

  9. Explain it and get sign-off. Your social media policy should be explained to every person in your company, even those you may think don’t or won’t use social media. Once they have had a chance to review it and ask questions, have every employee sign a form indicating that they understand the policy.

  10. Review it regularly. Social media platforms, and the ways they are used, change rapidly. Be sure to review your policy regularly—annually at a minimum.

If you don’t yet have a social media policy in place, it may take you a number of weeks to get one written and approved. But even before you have the final version in-hand, it’s a good idea to have a chat with your staff to remind them of their social media roles and responsibilities. And especially when holiday cheer has everyone a little giddy, a good rule of thumb is, “When in doubt, don’t send it out.”

Don't forget, social media can play a huge role in content marketing. Stay up-to-date with the latest marketing trends and continue to reap the rewards. So, if a meaningful social media plan is on your holiday wish list, or perhaps you've decided to make it your New Year's resolution, give us a shout. We'd love to help you get setup!

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