Introducing the topic of “Social Media Governance,” marketing strategist and attorney Glen Gilmore explained, “Governance is about how a company establishes and sustains social networking best practices by integrating social media into its corporate culture. It’s the evolution of ‘social media’ into ‘social business’.” Ever the attorney, Gilmore added his own disclaimer: “Nothing in this post should be considered legal advice as that would require a consultation with an attorney from your own jurisdiction. These ten tips are should help companies create sustainable best practices in new media marketing.”
1. Create a Governance Team.
2012 should be the year in which business gets serious about social media governance, integrating social business into corporate culture.
Your governance team should reflect a cross section of your organization and it should become a center of excellence for your business. Silos do not work.
A governance team should bring together diverse talent, including marketing, customer service, IT, legal, and human relations, to share in learning, establish best practices, and create benchmarks for excellence, while humanizing your brand and driving business results.
2. Establish/Update A Social Media Policy.
If your organization doesn’t have a social networking policy, you are courting disaster as you are inviting even a single employee to have the power to redefine your brand in one inadvertent or ill-conceived post.
If, on the other hand, your organization was an early adopter of new media (or at least an early adopter of a social media policy!), it is likely time to update your policy. In the past year, the National Labor Relations Board has rendered over a hundred decisions touching on the topic of employee use of social media, with many of the Board’s actions prompted by overly broad social networking policies that were deemed to having a “chilling effect” on employee protected speed.
The law is finally catching up to the implications of the huge amount of communication, marketing and conversation taking place on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, vlogs, etc. Your policy and guidelines should reflect those changes and clarifications.
An abundance of model policies exists online. Be mindful that some of the policies you may find online may also be in need of updating or just plain wrong. You need to invest in getting your policy right and the proper policy for your organization may vary immensely depending on they type of organization you are and the degree of existing regulatory guidelines you must follow.
3. Create a Playbook
Unlike your social media policy, which establishes the rules and limits of online social engagement, your playbook should be more of “how-to” book for your employees, a reference that provides examples of what should and should not be done on social networks. Social network profile templates providing suggestions on how to best project a professional and consistent brand image should be included.
4. Establish a Social Media Communications Crisis Management Plan.
Along the way, your business will invariably have a crisis that will require it to muster its social networking resources. Prepare for the crisis before it happens. This should include creating a response chart of who within your organization would be tasked with what and how they would be contacted, as most crises seem to happen after 5:00 p.m. or on a weekend. Have round-tables to identify the events most likely to trigger a communications crisis within your organization and then do some training exercises to run through how you charts and policies would work.
If you are a larger organizations, you likely already have crisis communications plans – they need to include social.
Knowing the mechanics of what to do if an employee has sent a mistweet from a corporate Twitter account (hint: don’t ignore it!) or what to do if your social network account has been hijacked by a spammer, are some of the scenarios you should review.
Be sure to cover this topic in both your playbook.
5. Take the Time to Learn the FTC’s Social Media Disclosure Guidelines.
In 2009, the Federal Trade Commission, which characterizes itself as “the nation’s consumer protection agency”, updated its endorsement guidelines to include social media, addressing the disclosure requirement for sponsored bloggers and those that sponsor them, along with a series of. Most marketers have never read them. Put them on your reading list! (When the FTC’s social media guidelines first came out in 2009, I blogged about about them: they haven’t changed. New FTC Rules: Business and Bloggers Beware)
Succinctly, contrary to a large body of writing on the subject, disclosure “tabs”, “buttons”, “links”, and static profile disclosures do not suffice to satisfy the FTC’s disclosure requirements. (Disclosures are required within the context of the social conversation.)
6. Provide Your Employees with Social Media Training.
Most of your employees are using social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, throughout the day, regardless of what your company policy may say to the contrary. Get over it. Instead, give your employees the training they deserve so that when they are using social media their time spent there will become an asset to your business rather than a ticking bomb.
7. Create a Decision Tree.
Just as call center employees are often provided with a decision tree to help them to quickly answer a myriad of questions, a social media decision tree should also be established to help employees understand the dynamics of responding on behalf of a brand in social networks. The U.S. Air Force even developed a new media decision tree that the pharmaceutical Pfizer later used as the basis for its own. Social media governance should aim to simplify social networking participation for employees, while still relying on the good sense of employees to personalize the social conversation. A decision tree will also add to brand consistency.
8. Streamline Access to Compliance and Legal.
Social media engagement is all about “real-time” conversation. It doesn’t mean a brand needs to give an instant response to every post or tweet, but it does mean that your company should strive to answer questions quickly — you can get added time by letting your community know that you have heard a question or complaint and that are looking into it, but whatever procedures need to be followed to provide a response must be time efficient. Having a way to get answers from compliance or legal requires a new approach that dedicates a greater appreciation for the time sensitivity of responding to social network inquiries or comments. Work on a way to accomplish this.
9. Share Regular Updates on Best Practices.
As social networking continues to evolve, so should your best practices and your sharing of information about those best practices. Being attentive to and sharing updated guidance from regulatory agencies should be part of your updates. (This is a task best assigned to your governance team with special input from legal.)
10. Monitor, Assess and Audit Your Social Networking Activities.
Even with the best policies and training, your company’s social networking activities should be monitored and assessed for excellence. This doesn’t mean that every tweet has to be a masterpiece, but that online social networking engagement is consistent with the brand and contributing to the building of trust, transparency and brand advocates.
It is worth noting that many of the FTC’s social media-related settlements have included mandatory outside audits of social networking activities. Bringing an independent audit into the mix is good idea to help keep monitoring of social business activities as accurate as possible.
BONUS: Clearly Define Who Owns Company-Related Social Network Accounts.
One of the legal hot potatoes of 2011, the dastardly debate of who really owns your Twitter account or your LinkedIn contacts, etc., etc., is set to be formally answered in 2011.
Without taking away the suspense of any impending court decision, ownership of a social media account is subject of debate and litigation if it is not clearly defined and agreed upon between employers and employees or business partners. Dispel the ambiguity and legal uncertainty: make a written agreement that covers the issue.
A written agreement outlining what is to happen with a social media account opened or operated for a business purpose by an employee or business partner on behalf of a business is something that should be expressly defined. Why? Because most now recognize that social media accounts have a business value and, left undefined, issues of ownership are likely to arise when business partners or employees part ways.