There’s no getting around it. Social media is one of the most important communications tools in today’s online world. It’s one of the first places your potential and existing customers go to garner a greater understanding of your company — and to either give you a digital high five or let the entire universe know all about their disappointing experience. How you and your employees respond to both positive and negative social media posts make all the difference.
That’s why it’s important to develop your company’s social media policy. Not only does a policy ensure that your messaging is consistent, it can help to mitigate any threats to your brand.
To share or not to share? That is the question.
Social media is an extension of your company’s overall marketing and branding efforts. As such, it’s wise to explain to your employees how best to represent the company online, whether it’s via the business’s social platforms or their own. For example, if an employee complains about clients on their own personal social media outlook, how does that make the company look? Not good. Also, how does that make you look? Also, not good. First, you hope employees do not have this tendency. Second, you need to outlook protection for your business and the rest of your team.
A well written policy reduces confusion by clearly setting expectations, protects your company’s reputation and increases employee advocacy. Make it very clear what they can and cannot share. Another example of what you don’t want is an enthusiastic employee to spill the beans about a new product launch before you’re ready to take that information public. The last thing you need is a post to go viral before you have your ducks in a row.
Hackers, trolls and mistakes
What if someone attacks one of your company’s social media accounts?
Hackers and trolls are out there. Remember when Facebook user Mike Melgaard hijacked Target’s Facebook page a few years ago, representing himself as a Target customer service representative? It caused quite a kerfuffle.
Melgaard spent 16 hours responding to customers opposed to Target’s decision to stop gender-specific labeling for clothing and toys before the retailer shut down the account and issued this official statement: “At Target, we are committed to providing outstanding guest service to our guests wherever we engage with them—in our stores, online, or on our social pages. Clearly this individual was not speaking on behalf of Target.”
They later posted this to their Facebook page, indicating they weren’t too upset with the antics.
All silliness aside, not every company gets positive press if someone hacks their social platforms. Make sure your company has a plan in place to address hijacking hijinks before too much damage is done.
Sometimes your own people will make mistakes and having a response plan ready will help to staunch the bleeding.
Last year, Adidas committed a huge faux pas when they sent out an email with the subject line, “Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon!” Recipients took to Twitter to call the company out.
Knowing exactly how you’re going to handle in-house slip ups is imperative. And you don’t have much time to respond before you’re tagged. Potentially by thousands of people.
Twitter: Minutes, up to 2 hours
Facebook: Up to 12 hours
Blogs: Up to 24 hours
Mainstream Media: 1-2- days.
Prepare yourself with prewritten messages you can tailor to address the issue at hand. These can be in the form of press releases, customer letters and official statements.
Your company’s social media channels are not an appropriate forum for venting or posting inflammatory content. Journey Employer Solutions client Laurie Macomber, owner of , works with companies to develop social media policies.
She recommends staying outside the political arena, unless policies are being created that could have a direct impact on your business.
“That’s a tailor-made discussion,” Laurie said. Instead of disparaging politicians talk about why your company does or does not support specific policy and how it effects your business, positive or negative. “If your company is not tied to politics, you shouldn’t be discussing it. You never know where negative posts will land and how your followers will respond.”
Another piece of advice: don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your mother or a board of directors to read. #commonsense.
Acknowledge clients in your company’s social media. Applaud their achievements and support them when things go wrong. Recently our client She She Beauty Lounge and their neighbor The Fox and The Crow were burglarized.
We shared She She’s Facebook post about the burglary and asked our followers to support them by treating themselves to spa services. We purchased gift certificates for our team at Journey and asked other businesses to do the same. The Fox and The Crow posted that two of their vendors MouCo Cheese Company and Vermont Creamery sent free product to help offset their loss. It was a great way to continue telling the story and to recognize the support they’re receiving.
“Put a halo on your clients,” said Laurie.
Build (and reinforce) your brand
Social media is the perfect opportunity to build your brand. Off-brand messaging isn’t going to help your cause and could be damaging. Make sure your employees know what your company stands for. Consistently remind them of your corporate values so that anything they post on your platforms or their personal platforms is reinforcing your brand.
It’s a good idea to assign your company’s social media roles and responsibilities to specific people. Typically, the marketing director or social media director handle these tasks and will have a strong handle on values and brand messaging. “Sometimes the company is small and the owner handles social media,” explained Laurie. “Sometimes the owner hires an intern. That’s when things get a little tricky. The intern doesn’t come in often and isn’t very knowledgeable about the culture. They get a download about what the brand stands for, but they really aren’t enmeshed in the company. Their work should be vetted before it goes public.”
Let’s talk about employee’s personal social media. Make sure they understand that any work-related posts should positively reflect your brand. Encourage responsibility. Drunk pictures while wearing anything with your logo are huge no-nos. Disparaging language, the same. Your employees represent your company even when they are not working and especially via their social media channels.
Now it’s time to sit down and work on your company’s social media policy. If you don’t know where to start, here’s a template that you can download. Customize it to suit your needs and have your attorney review this policy before you implement. Journey is not providing legal advice. Once it’s complete, distribute it to your employees and have them sign a copy for their personnel file. You want everyone to be on the same (Facebook) page.