Because your social media policy is only as effective as its implementation
A social media policy can only do its job if it’s seen.
We know it sounds like obvious advice.
But too many times, companies go through the process of creating a social media policy. And then forget the last part: properly implementing it.
It’s the equivalent of celebrating before you’ve crossed the finish line.
In this chapter, we’ll give you the process you’ll need to make sure that all that hard work you put into your social media policy gets you the results you wanted: a solid policy that guides employee activity on social media, protects your brand, and helps you market, sell, and recruit better than ever.
Your Social Media Policy Needs an Implementation Plan
You’ll need an implementation plan for your social media policy.
That’s because implementing it will likely require multiple steps and coordination between various stakeholders.
Your social media policy is a document that can, and ideally should, serve more than just the social media team’s needs.
It’s also a document that needs to be reviewed by others - say, the legal department.
You can see where this is going.
Coordinating between the various stakeholders to get your social media policy across the finish line is critical. Below are several of the stakeholders we see involved in most social media policies.
Not every team needs to be involved, and the overlap between these teams can vary from company to company. But it’s a safe bet at least a couple of these teams will be involved.
Social Media / Marketing. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you fall in this category. This is the team that usually, but not always, “owns” the document. They’re also the team that’s commonly listed in social media policies as the point of contact for questions or concerns. There are two chief objectives here: a) ensure the brand’s “voice" is consistent online even in employees’ personal channels, and b) tap into employees’ networks to help drive marketing activities. This is also the team that can stand up a webpage to host your social media policy online.
Communications / PR. Another key player, the Comms team typically takes a more conservative approach. They’re interested in protecting the brand, having a consistent message, and avoiding any online crises. That’s the lens they’ll bring here, and they’ll want to make sure the policy has adequate guardrails in place. They might also prefer to be the point of contact listed in the policy for conflicts and crises. Additionally, Comms is an important player in the dissemination of your social media policy when it’s live. After all, you do want to get the word out to your employees, right?
HR. Your HR department will want to make sure that your social media policy is consistent with the broader conduct policies at your company. A smart tactic is to make sure that your social media policy references your other policies. In Chapter 3, we saw how IBM does this: “As IBMers, we comply with the IBM Business Conduct Guidelines, IBM’s Corporate Instructions, and all internal IBM policies, as well as the education relating to Cybersecurity, Privacy, and Bullying & Sexual Harassment. Our Social Computing Guidelines should be applied together with these policies and guidelines.”
Customer Support. If you are a B2C brand and/or have a retail element, then your Customer Support department will want to make sure that your social media policy has clear guidance on how to handle customer complaints online. As some of the real-life examples in Chapter 3illustrate, companies might want their employees to steer clear of complaints online and let a dedicated Customer Support team handle the situation.
Sales. While your sales team probably won’t have a direct hand in crafting your social media policy, there is no doubt they have a vested interest in social media. With 98% of employees using at least one social media site for personal use, and 78% of social sellers outselling colleagues who don't use social media, sales and social media are a natural fit. So where do we see Sales intersecting with your social media policy? When your social media policy encourages, rather than prohibits, employee involvement online. In other words, plant the seeds for employee advocacy in your social media policy, and Sales is covered (as far as your social media policy is concerned).
C-Suite. Unless your company is on the small side, your C-suite won’t be crafting your social media policy. What they can do, however, is give their blessing and their support. In our experience, one of the best tactics for getting your project off the ground is visible C-suite support inside the company.
IT. We’ve seen examples of a company blocking access to social media sites at work. Needless to say, if your social media policy is at all interested in getting employees active with social media, make sure they can access it at work. And just because you can access it at your office doesn’t mean your colleagues at another location can. Talk to IT and make sure there aren’t any network restrictions in place before you launch a policy that claims to welcome employee participation online.
Legal. Last but far from least, your legal team should absolutely review your document. There is an art to how and when they’re involved, of course. We recommend going to legal with something they can review and react to, as opposed to having legal create your policy for you. But regardless of how you work together, their review and approval is valuable. And depending on the industry, it might be absolutely necessary.
As you can see, each stakeholder plays a slightly different role.
Some you’ll need for approval, some for support. Make sure these roles and expectations are clear.
Step 2: Launch Policy
By now you have a final version with buy-in and support. You’re almost ready to go live.
Here’s what’s next.
First, decide where the social media policy will “live”, and put it there. Our preference is to put it on a dedicated, publicly-accessible webpage (talk to Marketing and/or IT). Second best option is an internal wiki site. Just avoid burying it in a shared folder somewhere - or at least make sure it’s not only there. It needs to be readily available.
A word of caution: if you place your social media policy in more than one location, make sure to note all the locations. That way, whenever you need to update your policy, you don’t forget about a webpage lingering somewhere with an outdated version of your policy.
Second, send an internal communication - preferably from the highest-level employee you can get - announcing the new social media policy. You’ll want to include at least the following points:
The major role that social media plays in most peoples’ lives today
The reason behind the new social media policy
A link to the policy
You’re open to feedback and questions, with a point of contact they can reach out to
Step 3: Maintain Policy
Congrats! Your social media policy is officially live now. But your work doesn’t stop here.
From here on out, you’ll need to maintain your policy. And as you’ll see, maintenance includes more than just the document itself:
Promotion. You announced your policy and it’s on a webpage, but that doesn’t mean every employee has seen it. So think about the other opportunities you have to promote your policy (with a link leading back to your policy). From newsletters to social media (how meta!) to your intranet, we’re sure you can come up with a handful of places to promote your policy. Again, just make sure your promotional efforts link back to your social media policy.
Training. Incorporate your policy into regularly occurring activities, such as new hire onboarding and annual trainings. It’s a painless way to get even more eyes on your policy.
Feedback. You need to know if your policy “works” for your company. Talk to your employees and get feedback. Do they think it’s confusing? Missing things? Does it make them feel any more comfortable talking about your company online? You can gather this via in-person discussions and as well as anonymous surveys, to name just a couple methods. Additionally, you may also want to gather quantitative data from the policy’s webpage. There are endless analytics packages you can use to gather this information, but your company likely already has one they use. So use that. Look at how much time people spend on the page, how far down the page people get, and if you have the capability look at the “hotspots” on the page that people are spending more time on. Another helpful tactic is to use a link tracking service, such as Bitly, to track the clicks on your social media policy url wherever you promote it.
Updating. Crucially, your social media policy is a “living document.” Revisit it with a critical eye on a regular basis (e.g. once every 6-12 months) and make changes as needed. After all, social media and the web evolve constantly, and your own social media policy will get tested every now and then (it’s unlikely that you accounted for every possibility).