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A Social Media Strategy, Part 1: Set Policies First

Tuesday, November 01, 2011
 

Over the next few issues, we’ll look at implementing a social media strategy into your marketing mix. While some business-to-business-focused companies have adopted social media, the manufacturing community at large has lagged behind business-to-consumer-focused marketing. This allows us to learn what has worked and where marketers are still struggling to find the right fit for social media within their marketing and communication strategies.

One thing we have learned: Companies must start by establishing corporate policies on the use of social media, and then invest the time to train their marketing practitioners in its use.

A recent reader poll conducted by SmartBrief on Social Media finds that only 18.5 percent of respondents conduct a formal training process for employees before they’re allowed to blog, tweet or post other social media content on behalf of the company. And, more than two-thirds polled admitted to empowering their employees to engage in social media activities on the company’s behalf without formal guidance. This seems a tad reckless to me.

During the past year, several global companies have made headline news for enduring bruises to their brands through misuse of social media. For example, Microsoft employees leaked features of Bing 2.0 through a series of boastful posts to personal Twitter accounts. The posts leaked confidential information prior to the official launch of the popular search engine’s major overhaul. And, Chrysler took center stage a few months ago when an employee at its social media agency included an f-bomb within a jab at Detroit drivers. The 28-yr.- old agency employee had meant for the tweet to appear on his personal Twitter account, rather than on Chrysler’s. The mistake proved costly, resulting in the employee losing his job and Chrysler firing its agency and having to publically apologize.

Posting to a corporate Facebook page is not the same as sharing your family photos on a personal profile. While this sounds obvious, not everyone may adopt your level of judgment. Consider how trivial it may be to post a few images from an internal holiday party to your corporate Facebook page. What could possibly be more innocent? Fun images depicting smiling employees cheerfully holding glass and plastic beverage containers of non-alcoholic drinks…who would care about this? Well, what if one of your major customers is an aluminum beverage can manufacturer?

So, whether your company already has an active social media presence or if it’s just beginning to conduct experiments to determine what works and what does not, take a few hours to pull together a social-media team comprising representatives from the marketing, human resources, sales and legal departments. Task the team with developing some general dos and don’ts with regard to how the company is to be presented, and with preparing a document that clearly communicates a policy. The policy should address some or all of the following concerns:

• The company’s core objectives in using social media

• How to handle statement corrections and retractions

• Legal issues regarding confidential, slanderous, libelous or other illegal content

• Codes of conduct

• The company’s positions on content involving political, regulatory, government, religious and social issues

• How to handle conversations involving your competition

• How to handle conversations involving your customers

• When to talk about upcoming company events and product releases

• What to look for in discussions regarding your brand

• How to address angry customers or negative posts about your company submitted by customers, competitors, suppliers, industry insiders and other employees

• How to address positive customer comments

• Dealing with responsibilities toward confidential information

• Employees’ personal use of social media and any morality issues that may affect their jobs

• Employees’ use of social media for self promotion

• What constitutes newsworthy posts

• What content you want to avoid

Defining corporate social media policy guidelines, combined with education, should go a long way toward standardizing the responsible use of social media to advance your business objectives and to avoid any embarrassing missteps along the way.

To benchmark social media policies from Daimler and Coca Cola, follow these links:

www.daimler.com/Projects/c2c/channel/documents/1895107_Social_Media_Guidelines_eng_Final.pdf; and www.thecoca-colacompany.com/socialmedia. MF

 


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