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Capital Region Business Journal Article

Article Originally published in the Captial Region Business Journal - April 2010 (page 37)

Title: Companies need to set policies before wading into Social Media

By: Jonny Buroker

social media implementation – the question is no longer if, but when

If your organization has been putting off implementing a social media strategy, you might want to jump on the onramp and merge into the social media mainstream.  Social media is maturing to the point where marketers are no longer asking whether it should be part of their marketing mix but how should they participate in it.  Your company needs a clear strategy for the channel.

Brian Solis, founder and principal, FutureWorks, in a blog post on Mashable, January 11, 2010 commented:

“Instead of researching the best ways to engage, many businesses create accounts across multiple social networks and publish content without a plan or purpose. However, businesses that conduct research will find a rewarding array of options and opportunities.”


So, which approach reflects your company’s social media efforts?  Are you just going through the motions or are you following a well thought out plan?

a strategy is critical

Social media users expect companies to be savvier today as to how they utilize the media, which makes having a social media strategy more critical than ever.  That includes making sure any social marketing initiatives are in line with their other brand marketing strategies.

“As increasing numbers of companies immerse themselves in social marketing, the sophistication level rises for all,” said Paul Verna, eMarketer senior analyst and author of the Insight Brief “Five Reasons Why Marketers Need to Have a Social Media Strategy.”  “That creates an environment in which only the most organized can compete.”

The chart below lists the top reasons that companies use social media.  Brand-building and Networking top the list, but many companies also use social channels for customer service, competitive monitoring, sales, and more.

Reasons US Executives use Social Media

start with a social media company policy

One of the most critical parts of a marketers’ plan is to determine how to integrate social media into their companies.  If you allow your company’s social media approach to fall into the hands of your employees and consumers, you will quickly lose brand control and be in damage control mode.  If a social media policy is not in place today, it should be!

As social media sites continue to proliferate and the line between work and personal lives blurs even further, the purpose of a social media policy is to set the expectations for participating in the channel as a good corporate citizen and to protect the rights and reputation of the company, its employees and customers. 

contents of a social media policy

While the contents and scope of a social media policy are as diverse as the companies they are written for, there appear to be some common elements many of them share.  It should apply to all employees or contractors who create or contribute to any social networks, blogs, wikis or other social media sites.  It should be written in a humane way that encourages social media participation but strict enough to protect the company, its reputation, its employees and customers.

Here are some of the main themes that are common throughout many social media policies:

·         Use extreme caution when you post anything online as it will be around for a long time.  Like an elephant, Google never forgets.

·         Stick to your area of expertise when making comments or participating in online discussions.

·         Identify who you are and the company you represent.  If you are writing about a product, your company, or a competitor, identify yourself using your real name and your role at the company.

·         Mention that your comments and views are your own and may not represent those of the company.

·         Never be false or misleading.  All statements of fact must be true and must be able to be substantiated.

·         Correct mistakes immediately.  If you realize that your posting contained an error, reissue it with the correct information and admit your mistake.

·         Respect confidential information. Do not share information that is confidential and proprietary about the company. This includes information about sales, customers, financials, products and new product releases, or other information that has not been publicly released by the company.  If you’re not sure, don’t mention it.

·         To prevent the appearance that you speak for or represent the company in an official manner, do not use company logos or trademarks without explicit permission from the company.

·         Do not engage in name calling, offensive language or behavior that will reflect negatively on you or your company's reputation.  If you do disagree with others’ opinions, keep it appropriate and polite.

·         Never comment on any legal matters, disputes, ongoing litigation or the parties the company may be in litigation with.

·         Recognize that you are legally liable for anything you write or present online.  Also, you are personally responsible for any online activity conducted using a company email address, or which can be traced back to the company’s domain, or which uses company assets.

It is important for companies to act promptly in creating their social media policy so they can educate their employees about expected behaviors online.  Combined with a social media strategy that compliments other company marketing initiatives will allow your company to take advantage of all that social media has to offer.

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