Corporate Social Responsibility is a current buzz phrase which relates to the real world, but how responsible is your company when it comes to digital social networking? Every company, large or small, should implement a social media policy.
Just as a company might create rules for the use of its logo and brand colour scheme, and just as the HR department will create rules for staff behaviour in and out of the office, a company without a social media policy is, at best, naive and, at worst, negligent.
1. Management should lead the way
The norm in many organisations is to have grey-haired technophobes at the top and twenty-something gadget lovers among the customer-facing workforce. The early adopters (traditionally young) are likely to be the staff with no management responsibility while those in charge don’t even know what Twitter is, let alone Facebook. Managers should not shun modern communication channels but educate themselves so they understand the possibilities, the practicalities and the pitfalls.
2. Passwords, passwords, passwords
Facebook and Twitter hacking is a growing problem because a huge percentage of social networkers access their accounts from smart phones that are easily left lying around. What happens, then, when your young marketing manager leaves his phone on a table in the pub where his mates can pick it up and post scurrilous messages on his Facebook Wall or Twitter account? The same problem is true on laptops, although many people use passwords to protect their desktops from prying eyes.
3. Whose account is being used?
A lot of professionals posting on Twitter promote the services of the company they work for, but they do it in their own name. Are you happy about this? Wouldn’t you rather be promoted under your own brand instead of have your corporate messages mixed up between “I had a great party last night” and “about to have a Jaffa Cake”? You should not discourage employees from talking about work on their private accounts (it’s promotion after all) but make sure the distinction is drawn between private comment and official announcements.
4. What are they saying?
If a member of your staff is posting about company affairs on a social network, are they saying anything you would rather they didn’t? What happens, for example, if a consultant tweets from the board room of a key client to say he is there giving them some consultancy? Will this jeopardise the confidentiality between company and client? Make sure staff realise that not everything can be shared.
5. Use the medium in a way that suits the audience
Each social network has its own character, and the audience using it is in a different frame of mind. Think of Twitter like a room full of people you don’t know, all talking over each other, where you hear bits and pieces of things being said. No whole conversation, just odd comments. Facebook is more like a room full of friends, where the conversation is more meaningful and engaging, but not the kind of environment where you can walk in and try to sell double glazing. LinkedIn is like a room full of business professionals, all wearing a name badge, willing to give and receive information, or just conversation. The way you interact on each site should be slightly different.
6. Social networking = customer service
Twitter is being used as an effective customer interaction tool by some companies (like BAA and the Post Office). Inviting discussion via Twitter is a good way to not only be responsive but also to be seen to be responsive. Communicating with customers via email and telephone is important, but chatting on an open forum allows others to see the company being responsive.
7. Don’t just sell
If you think “social media marketing” means you just need to promote your products and services via social networks, you are very much mistaken. The best use of social networking is to not sell but to just interact. Banging on about nothing but yourself is boring, commenting on what others have to say is more engaging. Obviously, you should do a bit of both.
8. Acknowledge your followers
Don’t just use social networks like Twitter and Facebook as a broadcast channel. Also look for interesting things your followers are posting and comment on these, passing some on to your other followers. Not only does this give you more free and quick content to post but it also encourages loyalty in those you are acknowledging.
9. Put someone in charge
Someone in your company needs to ensure your social media policy is known about and adhered to. There’s no point creating rules if no one ever reads them or abides by them. Select a suitable person with managerial authority to take on the mantle of social media policy watchdog. Also, ensure adherence to the policy is written into your personnel contracts, which is a job for HR. There’s no point in having rules if you don’t have a stick to enforce them with.
10. Train your staff
Run training workshops for your staff so they can learn how to make the most of social networks, and so they can learn your company’s social media policy. DotPonto offers training sessions on the top three networks (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook) and we can help you devise and implement your social media policy. If you are interested, contact us.