Should Your B2B Company Draft a Social Media Policy?

Most of us joined the social media craze by setting up profiles and dabbling with repurposing existing content in these new formats, tweeting press releases, posting whitepapers as blog entries, adding blogs to Facebook pages etc. As we participated more, and brought our B2B companies into the fold, hopefully we have gotten a better idea of what content our subscribers and networks want from us.

Have you stopped to consider what if something went wrong? What would you do if you had a PR crisis and your Facebook fan page became filled with negative comments? What would happen if an employee breached your confidentiality agreement by tweeting out about the latest project they were working on? Do you know what you would do or who would handle it?

As the sparkle fades on social media a bit, we begin to see it as a tool for communicating and not the solution to all of our problems. We need to consider how social media is moving the bottom line and how to protect your brand, employees and your content. Being prepared or having these conversations before something happens (and I really hope nothing ever does) is a wiser strategy then the old wait and see approach.

Starting a B2B Social Media Policy
First off, you may want to look into your existing communications policy, confidentiality agreements, contract compliance, intellectual policy and more. Perhaps the language you need is right in your existing policies and you just need to add text to include communicating with technology like blogs and social media sites.

If you do not have an existing communications policy, your social media policy does not need to be complicated. You should just state three major points:

  1. What your business will and will not do online
  2. What your employees can and cannot do online
  3. What the public can and cannot do with your content

You can get as specific as you want. Make sure you have enough to cover yourself and always talk with your lawyer. They may have suggestions for you as well. One of the most difficult aspects is defining what your employees can and cannot do. Decide who the voice of your company is and how you want that voice to sound.

Creating a social media policy usually starts with some difficult conversations. Include your lawyer, marketing people, senior staff and IT in the conversation. Determine what you do not want to happen and you can work backwards on the steps you would put in place to prevent that from happening. Establish a chain of comment, a response policy (who and how someone would respond to a less-than-glowing comment).

Some other important things to consider when drafting a social media policy
Establishing guidelines for your staff – Determining what is and what is not ok for your employees is difficult. Many businesses still block social networks from work computers. That doesn’t mean they are not still participating through work-arounds or their smartphones. The bottom line is social networks should not interfere with their job performance.

Keep your policy open for review – As we all know by now, technology is moving at a rapid pace. Your communications or social media policy should be reviewed regularly and updated as necessary.

Guidelines may be enough – As Kipp wrote earlier this year, you do not need to overcomplicate your policy so that no one even wants to read it. A simple set of guidelines may be enough like what Coca Cola released this year. I also like IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines.

Training and conversations are more powerful than polices and punishments – At our office our social media policy is a loose guideline but if you are going to provide content about our company, share in our marketing efforts and use social media sites on company time you are required to have a long conversation with our VP of Marketing (um, that is me). In that conversation we talk about expectations, content that is acceptable and things that are not acceptable. The more time you spend training people on the correct way to use these new tools and explaining why your policy is they way it is, the less time you will spend policing your staff.

What do you do for a social media policy at your company? Do you just wait and see?

Comments

  1. says

    Contrary to popular belief social media is not like the telephone that everybody has to have, although soon we may have technologies that will incorporate social media into every aspect of our lives. You need B2B social media strategy if your customers and clients are actually on social media and might be looking for you there.

  2. says

    I just read a recent survey that finds 53% of American companies – of all sizes and shapes – don’t monitor the use of social media. That is a rather startling, and potentially dangerous, stat for all sorts of reasons.

    Even if smaller companies don’t think they need social media guidelines or policies like larger companies, everyone can benefit from one.

    It helps you to stay focused on your social media strategies (yes I know using social media and strategy in the same sentence is a bit disingenuous, but social media should only be an aligned subset of an overall business strategy or plan).

    It allows for the benchmarking of progress and the evaluation of what’s working, what’s not and what to do next.

    It allows companies to better manage the time they spend in social media.

    Molly DiBiance, a labor relations attorney, says “Instead of prohibiting employees from any discussion of the employer online, the policy should prohibit specific conduct.”

    That might include posting, uploading or sharing company information, or commenting on co-workers.

    A big genie is out of the bottle and we all better learn to manage it. It’s more fun to talk about the rewards of social media, but we can’t be blind to the risks.

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