Social media can be a double-edged sword for any organization. It can be your best friend by building brand awareness, engaging your target audience and earning customers on social networks. Social media can also seem like your worst enemy if your organization and employees are unprepared when embracing this sensitive, yet effective, mass-messaging channel.
The balance of risk with reward has driven the most advanced & prepared brands in social media maintain an ever-evolving social media governance policy.
A complete social media governance policy will educate employees within your organization on best practices and brand guidelines when discussing brand-related matters on social networks. An educated workforce will maintain brand guidelines on social networks, avoid social media disasters and even enhance social media marketing efforts by supporting the brand!
According to the eBook How to Build Your Social Media Governance Policy, costs related to social media marketing and crisis control can be reduced with an up-to-date social media governance policy. Various costs include:
- Lowering social media marketing costs with more employee participation.
- PR costs related to social media crisis remediation.
- Brand equity loss from a social media crisis.
Start with a Brand Audit
Building a complete social media governance policy requires a comprehensive brand audit. Similar to a SWOT analysis, a social media brand audit will assess your social media marketing efforts, how your brand is engaging with users and where your brand fits in the current social media landscape.
Specifically, a comprehensive brand audit will map out:
- The current brand presence on social media.
- Where the best opportunities are on social networks for your brand.
- All of the steps to take advantage of the best opportunities and shut down the unproductive social media profiles.
Here are the fundamental components that are essential to a comprehensive brand audit:
Social Profile Inventory:
Understand everywhere your brand is currently maintaining (or abandoning) social network profiles. Log this information and develop a strategy to measure & prioritize the most valuable social network opportunities for your brand and target audience.
Brand Standard Audit:
Develop brand standards for the graphics and data on social network profiles. Maintain a consistent brand experience to synchronize social networking efforts and generate an additive effect across social networks.
Brand Messaging Audit:
Reaching your target audience on social networks requires the right content, timing and context. A complete brand-messaging audit reviews best practices and offers advice on how to optimize the most important components of your brand messaging.
Social Media Tracking:
Getting the most out of your social media efforts requires tracking mechanisms that allow your team to optimize your social media strategy. Make sure that your team is tracking the four basic types of social media engagement:
- Endorsements (Likes, Favorites, +1′s)
- Shares (retweets, shares)
- Brand Mentions
Blog Editorial Guidelines:
Developing original, interesting and consistent blog content is an important part of a brand’s social media experience. If done effectively, your brand will generate online sales and leads on a regular basis.
General Guidelines & Best Practices
The section of your governance policy should cover general guidelines and best practices. This might be the only section that many employees actually read, so it needs to be easy to understand and very straightforward.
The eBook suggests using an “Always / Sometimes / Never” format for general guidelines. This format should be easily understood from mailroom employees all the way up to the CEO.
These guidelines and more are all included in a Governance Policy Template (MS Word) that is also included in the eBook download. Here are the basics of a brief, yet informative, best practices section:
These guidelines should apply to every social media update.
Always understand that your social media content lives forever. Web archives record every social media update, even if you delete it moments after posting. Your social media updates cannot be deleted, so keep this in mind when posting.
Always support the brand. Your organization should not expect your employees to promote the brand, but it should be expected that your employees would generally support the brand when making mentions on social networks.
Always disclose that you are an employee of the company. Ever wonder what reasons are behind those profile statements that “the following opinions are mine”? It is all part of the disclosure process (more details in the proactive policies section of the eBook).
These guidelines are for posts that should occur occasionally, but not with every update.
Sometimes advocate relevant branded content promotions. Employees should be encouraged, not required, to support branded content promotions on social media. It is important to make sure that employees are supporting in a genuine fashion and not auto-posting branded content, which may look artificial and/or forced.
Sometimes post non-confidential information about your work. Employees should also be encouraged to share non-confidential information about their work. This will help to give your brand a face on social networks.
These guidelines are for posts that should never occur.
Never disclose company financial details. Information like stock pricing, profit/loss details, recent sales opportunities or any other financial information that your organization deems proprietary should never be discussed on social networks.
Never discuss company legal matters. Legal matters like current past or present lawsuits, layoffs, reductions in force or other confidential information should never be discussed on social networks.
Never associate the brand with negativity of any kind. Be sure to always maintain a positive approach when mentioning the brand on social networks. Sometimes even good intentions can go awry, especially if you are defending the brand, so always keep it positive!
Never use brand marks or logos on personal social media properties without written permission. So many brands that overlook this rule find it frustrating when employees that are using brand marks leave the company, causing a tough situation when trying to remove the social media profile. Avoid this situation by maintaining regulation and don’t allow employees to use brand marks on social media profiles that the brand does not own.
The proactive policy section of the eBook covers policies that are meant to dig a bit deeper into particular areas of disclosure & common use. There are many proactive policies included in the eBook from SocialMedia.org that go into greater depth on complicated social media issues and situations.
The three top proactive policy checklists that should be a part of the main area of the governance policy are:
- Disclosure of Identity
- Persona Social Media Participation Best Practices
- Truthfulness and Honesty in Social Media Communication
Other proactive policies that address challenges and issues in social media are included in the Appendix section of the eBook, including:
- Social Media Outreach Campaigns
- Advocacy Programs
- Compensation & Incentives
- Agency and Contractor Disclosure
- Vendor Questionnaire
- Monitor and Response
- Policies & Training
- Creative Flexibility
- Other General Best Practices (regarding disclosure)
These additional policies are convenient for when these specific situations arise. Many of these additional policies are more geared towards your social media marketing team, like the Social Media Outreach Campaigns policy. Therefore, you might not find it necessary to include all of these policies within your organization’s employee social media governance policy.
Develop Your Brand’s Policy Today
Building a comprehensive social media governance policy for your brand is not as difficult as it may sound. Prepare yourself with a complete social media audit to set your employees up for success. Use the Social Media Governance Template as a starting point for developing best practices and proactive social media policies. Finally, be sure to keep the document up to date and evolve the governance policy with your social media strategy.