Who Needs a Social Media Policy?

by | Apr 8, 2011 | Best Practices, Blog, Blog Archive | 0 comments

Who needs a social media policy?  The answer depends on who you ask.   Some people will say that a small business doesn’t need one.  Others will say that in a regulated environment like banking, insurance, or healthcare a social media policy is essential for any company with more than one employee.

Your employees, customers and competitors are already involved in social media and social networking.  So opting out of the conversation – that is not participating in social media – just isn’t an option for most companies.  Setting up a monitoring system so that you know (quickly) what’s being said about your brand, your company, and your key employees online is the first critical step towards a social media strategy.

When it comes to writing a social media policy, who should decide what goes into it? At a workshop sponsored by the Dallas Social Media Club last year, the presenter said that the social media policy would look like this depending on who wrote the policy.

  • Marketing’s Social Media Policy: Say anything you want, anywhere you want, as long as it’s positive.
  • IT’s Social Media Policy: You can do whatever we give you permission to do, and nothing more.
  • Human Resource’s Social Media Policy: Do EXACTLY what we tell you to do.
  • Legal’s Social Media Policy: Social Media? Do Nothing! Say Nothing!!

OK, so the positions may not be that extreme, but the truth is that if your company is considering a social media policy, many different groups should be involved.  The marketing team knows about things like messaging and best practices. Customer support knows how to handle problems reported through social media. Human resources knows how to handle an employee who’s criticizing the boss on Facebook. And legal or compliance knows the regulations, rules, and liability that come with the territory on social media.

Of course, there are those who argue that there’s no need for a social media policy. The argument goes something like this: We hire good, professional people who are proud of our company and their jobs. These people aren’t going to do anything negative out there – and the more people we have out there “talking up the brand”, the better.

That sounds great until you realize that employee turnover is a fact of life. Will those people who were proud of your company still be proud of it when they’ve moved on to a competitor? Is there ever even the slimmest chance that one of them will have a few too many drinks at a party and then take to Twitter to complain about the boss? That some well-meaning employee will post something that causes a firestorm when responding to something posted by an outsider? That you’ll find your company in the middle of a situation where you must respond quickly and appropriately to a customer complaint made via social media?

It’s that last one that makes us believe that a social media policy is essential.  Inc. Magazine wrote a great tutorial on how to write a social media policy in May, 2010.  Take a look at the article, and let us know what you think.  Who needs a social media policy?  Do you have one?