5 Ways to Protect Your Organization with Social Media Guidelines

Be honest. If you woke up tomorrow morning and discovered that every single police officer or local authority in the state had disappeared, would you slow down on the highway, or feed the parking meter?

Of course most people know how to behave themselves. But, without rules or guidelines, there will always be those who test the limits to see what they can get away with.

Social media can also be disruptive if there are no established policies or guidelines to protect the company, employees, and customers. A social media policy may seem trivial, especially if current conversations on your blog or Facebook page are productive and valuable. However, you cannot lose sight of the fact that bad things happen on social media everyday.

Research from Altimeter Group shows that social media crises are on the rise, yet 76% of them could have been prevented or diminished had the brand been prepared through proper training, knowledgeable staff, and a comprehensive social media policy.

Here are 5 ways to protect your organization and your online community with social media guidelines:

1. Foundation - build a strong foundation for using social media at your organization:

  • Define clear business objectives for using social media - these should be published online for everyone to see.
  • Establish a clear business social media policy (for employees, customers and the community at large) telling members what they can and cannot say on your social media properties. This helps to protect the organization, and keep everyone respectful of one another.
  • Provide basic training to empower employees using social media tools.

2. Safety - organize a team and a process to deal with and respond to potential problems:

  • Appoint a team or a person to monitor and respond to online conversations. Don't allow too much time to pass without responding to online comments or questions, otherwise problems could escalate and become more difficult to solve.
  • Create a company-wide process for responding to customers in real time.
  • Train your team by doing internal "fire drills" or "what-if" scenarios to prepare them for potential real-life situations.

3. Formation - coordinate your social media efforts across the whole company:

  • Take inventory of current social assets across the company by identifying existing social media profiles or accounts and grouping them as active, abandoned, fledging or unknown.
  • Form a social media Center of Excellence (CoE) to serve the whole organization in terms of education, measurement and tool deployment.

4. Enablement - give employees support and flexibility to prosper and reach their goals:

  • Once the CoE is in place, trust your employees to use their own initiative.
  • Encourage them to stay connected and to learn from each other.
  • Give them templates to measure and record social media results for reporting purposes.

5. Enlightenment - weave real-time market response to business processes and business planning:

  • Make decisions made on real-time business intelligence such as customer ratings or reviews.
  • Achieve real-time customer engagement by empowering employees through a "holistic" model.
  • Use real-time social data such as Facebook Insights to make key business decisions.

For small organizations, the foundational guidelines (#1 and #2) are sufficient to participate in social media professionally and safely. It's not necessary to overwhelm your employees with a 30-page policy, especially if your social media activity is very little. But for large companies or more complex businesses, comprehensive social media policies are needed to cover the other four areas (See #2 - #5).

You have to strike a balance between social media guidelines that are broad enough to cover potential problems and specific enough to provide clarity to those making daily decisions.

5 Ways to Protect Your Organization with Social Media Guidelines