How to Create Social Media Guidelines

5 Social Media Guidelines Every Firm Can Use

With expanded use of social media, it’s surprising, after three years, that only half of organizations adopt social media guidelines. Why is this important? Because having a set of social media guidelines is evidence that a company understands how communications have evolved. Further, it shows that the company cares about its employees like a parent who sets boundaries for her child. Lastly, a firm can implement a set of social media guidelines without being active in the social media ecosystem. To me, social media guidelines are one of the three must haves for every company whether you’re using social media or not. Even more surprising, many firms in highly regulated industries haven’t jumped on this bandwagon sooner.

Think that this doesn’t apply to your firm? Check out the case of a Connecticut woman whose complaint about her boss on Facebook got her fired. The National Labor Relations Board reinstated her because finding that her posting was protected under the constitution. Therefore, it’s incumbent upon you to set guidelines for your employees and to ensure that they’re within legal boundaries.

5 Social media guidelines every firm can use

With a wide variety of companies that have adapted social media guidelines, it’s relatively easy to draft a working document for your organization. Adapt the best and most relevant ones for your firm. Here are five suggestions:

  1. Keep it simple. Be realistic – if your guidelines are too long or complicated they’ll be difficult for employees to follow. Ford has five points that are explained on one single page.
  2. Empower employees. Ask employees to be real and use their best judgment. The reality is that with social media it’s in your employees hands to do what they think is best for the customer and for the company.
  3. Be careful when sharing information. Request employees to keep confidential information secret, about the company and other individuals.
  4. Take time before responding on social media networks. Remember the Internet is permanent and never forgets. Remind employees that perception is reality. I think that this is important since responses will travel from your brain to your keyboard without a second thought and once something’s out there, you can’t take it back.
  5. Don’t pick a fight and correct your mistakes. Understand that you’ll encounter a wide range of individuals on social media platforms. If someone is contentious, be polite and minimize contact. When an error is made, admit it and correct it. Indicate where you’ve changed a previous post or information.

5 Steps to create a set of social media guidelines

To help your firm quickly gather the best of the social media guidelines, here’re five tips. Bear in mind, this can be a living document. Putting it on paper doesn’t mean that it can’t be changed.

  1. Start with a draft based on a review of other companies’ guidelines. With a broad array of firms who have adapted social media guidelines, why start from scratch. Further, it’s much easier to edit a document than to stare at a blank sheet of paper.
  2. Make guidelines positive and proactive, not punitive. You want employees to embrace these principles because they’re representing your organization even when they’re not working.
  3. Keep guidelines as simple and streamlined as possible. Remember your goal is to get employees to follow them. If they’re too complex, they’ll be something that’s too difficult  to pay attention to.
  4. Bring a cross section of representatives together. The goal isn’t to make this a long extended work-in-progress with meeting after meeting. Rather, have a variety of staff present to ensure that the guidelines work across the entire organization. This shouldn’t be a legal or HR document.
  5. Give everyone the chance to contribute their input. The objective is to be democratic and ensure that everyone in the organization takes ownership and responsibility for these guidelines. With broad input, specific elements that are relevant for your company may bubble up.

What are you waiting for? Take this article and start drafting your organization’s social media guidelines. This is one area of social media activity that’s a no brainer for companies. It’s important for protecting your most important corporate asset your employees. Why wait until you have a PR crisis?

What elements do you think should be included in a set of social media guidelines and why?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

To help you here are some links to corporate social media guidelines.

Photo credit: Heidi Cohen (Note: this photo wasn’t altered.)

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  • http://andrefloyd.com Andre Floyd

    Great information Heidi. Intel, Eastman Kodak and Gartner also have SM policies that are worth checking out as one creates one’s own corporate guidelines.

    • http://riversidemarketingstrategies.com/ Heidi Cohen

      Andre–Thank you for the compliment. Agree with you on Kodak and Gartner. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • Sara

    I liked your article Heidi! If your readers want to pursue more on establishing social media guidelines, Cision puts out some nice tip sheets on that topic as well.

  • Mark Davis

    Absolutely necessary for everyone involved, and this post hits all the right notes. It would be great is more regulated industries would ‘open source’ their guidelines.

    • http://riversidemarketingstrategies.com/ Heidi Cohen

      Mark– Thank you. If you check the links at the bottom of the column, there are some pharma companies that do publish their guidelines, namely Roche. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • http://www.broadvisionmarketing.com/feed/ Ann Mullen

    Thanks, Heidi. I am working on doing this for a very small marketing business that’s made of just 2 full time employees, but we need to have a plan as much as Ford Motor Company does. The information you have provided will come in real handy.

  • Hunter

    Great advice! One of the things that I’ve found both personally and professionally to be one of the easiest things to overlook is creating a social media plan. A plan for both engagement and content. Without a good plan for content generation and distribution, it will never happen. Also, so many people do not have explicit social media goals and measurable metrics. Without them, however, one cannot tell if their social media program is working or not. What new social media platform would you suggest trying next?