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article imageOp-Ed: Creating a social media policy for your small business

By Anne Marie Marais     Mar 4, 2014 in Business
You might think that you only need a social media policy if you are running a larger company, but it's just as important for small businesses. If your business is larger than just you, it's beneficial to put a policy in place.
Your team may only be a small one at this point, but it's a good idea to build a social media policy now and bring everyone on board right from the beginning. But know that it's never too late to create one that will benefit and protect your business and team.
A social media policy can empower your team while ensuring they understand what is expected of them as they represent your company and themselves in the social sphere. When it comes to social media and small business, it's a team effort. Yes, there may be one 'social media manager' within your company, but a team effort with guidelines will help to build your following, website page views, engagement, brand awareness and create a team unity and commitment to your brand.
However, with this kind of empowerment must come respect for rules and policies that are in place to ensure all team members have an understanding of how they represent company. Jeanne Meister, Founding Partner of Future Workplace, outlined these '5 R’s of social media’, in an NPR interview last year.
1. Reason. Simply put: use reasonable etiquette, the same as you would offline.
2. Represent yourself. Anonymous profiles lend themselves to more negative content.
3. Responsibility. Make sure that what you’re saying is factually correct, and also that it doesn’t violate any legal guidelines that prohibit revealing information that is material to a company’s stock price.
4. Respect. What you say online is a permanent record, so don’t say anything online you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying to the whole office – with a camera rolling.
5. Restraint. Before you hit that send button, pause and reread. If you wouldn’t want that particular thought or contribution forever associated with your name, don’t post it.
These 5 R's are a great starting point when you are putting together your policy or guidelines for your team. Remember though that you don't want to scare your team away from supporting your social initiatives because of a fear of extreme consequences. A big part of professional and personal social media use is common sense.
To protect themselves, team members can decide to separate their professional and personal social media accounts, but for some that is just added work that creates barriers as they try to engage and promote your brand.
Ten basic elements to consider when putting together your social media policy:
1. Ensure that it is made clear by team members that their views are theirs alone and do not represent that of your company. You may have seen this within profile bios on platforms like Twitter. Quite often I've seen this on the Twitter accounts of journalists and it can be a statement as simple as 'Opinions my own'
2. All social engagement should be honest, but professional and show respect for the brand and those that you are engaging with.
3. Stick with your area of expertise. Talk to what you know.
4. You want to add value to conversations, not come across as confrontational, offensive or use social media to vent about your issues with your employer.
5. Don't bad mouth your competition.
6. Common sense is top priority. I've had the concept of common sense drilled into me by my parents from as far back as I can remember. Now my common sense my not be the same as yours, but keeping that sense top of mind when dealing with social media, can only help.
7. Remember whatever you post or say is PERMANENT.
8. Be proactive if you make a mistake. Keeping in mind #7, if you post something that is not appropriate, be truthful about it and inform the powers that be within your company so all of you can decide how to proceed. Don't try to cover it up.
9. We've all heard the stories of people going rogue on social media because of work related incidents. This inevitably will lead to major consequences, so ensure that more than just one person has all the necessary logins and passwords to your social media accounts. Now you can't stop people from tagging you in their posts, but you can stop content from going out directly from your corporate accounts.
10. Keep engaged with your team so that they are informed and can be your best brand advocates out in the social media world. A well informed team is a strong one.
A good social media policy will help your team/brand advocates understand what is expected of them as they embark on their role to build the awareness of the company that they proudly work for.
Anne-Marie, owner of Long Leg Productions, is a seasoned social media marketer. Clients such as the Toronto Star and Summerhill, work with Anne-Marie to increase their social presence in order to develop and retain community. You can follow Anne-Marie on Twitter @atmarais.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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