Social media policies aren’t typically the first things that come to mind when you’re developing a social media marketing strategy.
But they should be.
Without social media policies in place, social media marketing plans are unsustainable. On social networks, reach is a function of engagement. Without engagement, there is no reach.
Thus, in order for social media marketing messages to get noticed, they need to get passed along to friends of friends and their friends. That means other people have to like, comment and share.
Drafting a social media policy may not seem as important as creating great content to share; but, if your addressable market – your employees, resellers or members – haven’t been given clear, easy-to-follow social media guidelines on permissible use, they’re much less likely to participate, so you’re much less likely to reach their friends.
Below are my top three reasons why executing a social media plan before you’ve provided everyone with easy-to-grasp social media guidelines is putting the cart before the horse.
1. Social Media Is A Team Sport
Making social media outreach the sole responsibility of the marketing department is unsustainable. To be heard, you need to engage at scale by getting others to like, comment on and retweet your content.
There are only so many relationships one person can maintain. You need to get folks talking online, and it’s going to be easier to engage those with a vested interest in your success. Social media policy is the first step to promoting widespread adoption among your addressable market.
2. Fear Is The Enemy
For others to engage, they need to feel safe. What if an employee gets asked a question about a known product performance issue on Facebook? Are they clear on how to handle difficult questions? If they’re not, and they fear disciplinary action, they’re going to clam up — and that’s not going to help you reach their friends.
Most employees aren’t trained in public relations. Scaling social media engagement to a company-wide level depends on providing practical guidance on permissible use.
3. Official Sources Are Less Trusted
People trust subject matter experts more than the house organ. If your leader is the only one representing your organization on social networks, you’re fighting skepticism from the get go. Don’t take my word for it. Research shows there’s a gap between the degree of trust people have for institutions versus their leadership. Relying exclusively on CEOs and official spokespeople for external communications is a very tough road to hoe. Social media policies prepare organizations to stroll down the path of least resistance.
When establishing your social media policies for your employees, make sure you’re on the right side of the law. For example, if you include broad language that forbids employees from engaging in social conversations to “damage the Company, defame any individual or damage any person’s reputation,” the National Labor Relations Board considers that a violation of labor’s protected rights — because it could have a chilling effect on their free speech rights.
Additionally, think things through to ensure you’re really achieving the effect you desire. The International Olympic Committee issued a “gag rule” that forbade competitors in the London Olympics from mentioning or promoting their sponsors in social media. The intention was to give official Olympic sponsors more share-of-voice by silencing talk about non-official sponsors. Instead, it spurred widespread criticism and ill will, given that personal sponsorships are one way non-state-funded athletes have to lessen the financial burden of training and competing at the Olympic level.
Social Media Training
However important social media policy development is to your marketing efforts, the establishment of these policies is not sufficient on its own. Social media policy development helps employers gauge their risk appetite. But the truth is, most employees will never actually read it. That’s why you need social media training.
In my next post, I’ll write about the second step to effective social media marketing, which is providing social media training. That’s how you make sure people really understand your social media policy.
(Note: If you’d like more on policy development, I just released a whitepaper on drafting corporate social media policies that can be downloaded.)
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.