So does your company need a policy? The short answer is duh, yeah.
The long answer is, of course, much more complicated. You see, your policy should be defined by the kind of company you are and the goals you have for social media in general.
Do you even want your company involved in social media? In my opinion the answer should be yes, for any company. But if the answer is no, your social media policy should reflect this. Because you can’t ignore social media and expect it to go away.
Let your employees know they’re not free to talk about the company on Facebook or Twitter or anywhere else on the Web. If you don’t tell them not to, they may decide to do it on their own. If you don’t believe me, start a monitoring program now; you may be surprised.
Or maybe you want your average employee fielding inquiries from Twitter? This is working pretty well for Zappos and Best Buy. But if you produce a highly regulated product like pharmaceuticals it might not be such a great idea to have unlicensed people giving out medical advice.
Do you have a social media strategy? If this strategy involves blogging and using Facebook, it should be reflected in your social media policy. Let people know who is free to field questions on Facebook and who is not.
Are only certain people allowed to blog about the company? What about on their own personal blog? For example, I have one and clearly state that what I’m writing is not the opinion of my employers, although I do prominently link them on my site.
What are your employees allowed to talk about? Are there taboo subjects?
Must they have training before they’re allowed to engage on behalf of the company?
This list could go easily get long – especially if the lawyers get involved. The trick is to keep it short enough to encourage interaction without being so short that it encourages bad behavior.
One thing to keep in mind, your employees have been spreading word of mouth about your company since it began. This is only the next step in that evolution. So the key is providing practical guidelines to keep employees from making missteps in a new media.
Bonus: Here is some reference for developing your company’s guidelines.
— Jimmy Gilmore, Senior Writer