Yesterday I wrote about how to sell social media to your marketing department, and as a follow-up to that question, I received another email from the same person indicating a big reason why internally their marketing department still doesn’t want to move forward:
“After more in-depth discussions it became apparent that the real concern of our marketing department is protecting our “brand name” while employee’s use social media to, essentially further their own careers and successes. I hadn’t looked at it from that perspective but it does present some challenges.”
The fear of how one’s employees will use sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook is a knee-jerk reaction by those who, once again, might not be new adopters to these tools. But upon analysis, it is clear that there is a natural progression of understanding that needs to take place here:
- Why not being active in social media can hurt your brand;
- Why your company was never in control of their brand (or the conversations of its employees) ;
- Why there is a need for a corporate-wide education program; and
- Why corporate social media policy creation is the only way to set proper usage guidelines and “protect” the company.
Using Social Media Helps Protect Your Brand Name
If all of these online conversations are taking place and you’re not active in social media, how can you be “protecting” your brand name from what may already be taking place in the outside world? Rather than a narrow approach looking internally at one’s own employees, what are your customers, competitors, and industry insiders potentially saying about your company? The only way to find out is by monitoring social media conversations, and the only way to truly “protect” your brand name is by being in active on those social media websites wherever your target audience is to proactively manage how others will perceive your brand name.
Companies Were Never in Control of Their Brand (or Their Employees)
What have your employees been saying about your company on the phone or through emails? Do you monitor all of the conversations they have with others at trade shows? Companies were never in control of the conversations that their employees have about their business, so the “brand name” has never been protected. At least with social media, when compared with other types of conversation, the information is public in a good way: Companies can now often see what their employees are saying on the various social media websites which can actually help to “protect” their brand name. Remember: New Tools, Old Rules. This challenge is nothing new.
On the other hand, since a “brand name” is only something that is perceived by others, companies were never in full control of it to begin with, right?
Social Media Use Inside the Company Needs Education
Even if you’ve bought into the argument so far, there is still a missing piece here: How can you be sure that your employees will responsibly use these websites as official representatives of your company? There is a learning curve associated with social media like there is with any other new tool. Posting to a corporate Facebook Page is not the same as sharing your favorite photos on your own personal profile. The only way to overcome this challenge is education. Pick the person inside your company who seems to have the most understanding of social media and could be a role model as a responsible user. One approach some of my customers use is to divide the educational responsibilities up amongst several people: 1 is in charge of learning and then educating others on LinkedIn, another on Twitter, and so on. Find a system that works and educate your employees.
Social Media Policy Creation is the Only Way to Both Set Guidelines and Protect the Company
Now that you have the education piece down, it is time to create internal guidelines for all present and future employees. This will provide the basis to train all of your employees on how to responsibly use social media. But don’t stop there: If an employee sends a public message through one of these social websites that in someway violates an existing contract (for instance, exposing company secrets or NDA-protected content), in some cases the company, not the employee, may be the responsible party. That is why these guidelines, if properly established under supervision by legal professionals, can also help protect your company. These corporate social media policy policy guidelines, combined with education, should go a long way into standardizing the responsible use of these websites inside your company.
14 Corporate Social Media Policy Examples to Help You Create Your Own Policy
Your company is not alone. Every other company, big and small, needs to have a policy in place for practical and legal reasons. While one survey pointed out that only 29% of companies have social media policies back in February of 2010, there is no doubt that this number will increase to near 100% over the next year or two. While a top notch employment law firm should be considered to supervise the creation and confirm the legality of any social media policy, there are plenty of resources out there to help you get started in learning about what to put in your own policy. Here are 14 great examples as well as some links to some famous guidelines that have been released for public consumption by large corporations. After all, if they can control usage of these websites within their own company, any small or medium-sized business should feel confident that they can do the same.
- adidas Group Social Media Guidelines
- Cisco’s Internet Posting Policy
- Coca-Cola Online SM Principles
- Dell’s Online Communication Policy
- IBM Social Computing Guidelines
- Intel SM Guidelines
- Kaiser Permanente SM Policy
- Nordstrom Social Networking Guidelines
- Oracle SM Participation Policy
- SAP SM Guidelines
- Wells Fargo Blogs and SM Community Guidelines
- Yahoo! Personal Blog Guidelines
And if the above isn’t enough, here are some people that are putting together more comprehensive social media policy databases that are being regularly updated:
You’ll notice that in this blog post I did not even dwell on the issue of employees using social media to “further their own careers and successes.” After proper education and looking at how other corporations utilize social media through their guidelines, it is only natural that your marketing department will realize that there are plenty of authentic professional uses of social websites whether it be for Human Resources, Recruiting, Sales, Business Development, and, of course, Marketing! Enough said.
Any other points that I missed, additional reasons for the creation of a corporate social media policy, or other excellent corporate social media policy examples that I might have missed? Please comment!