Oct 3 2011
By Priya Ramesh (@newpr)
The recent Nielsen report was a little bit of a shocker for me when I saw the following stats. I mean, how in the world do we have so much free time on hand? BUT these are key indicators to understand how your consumers (and more importantly your employees!) might be spending their time online, so pay close attention:
Let’s first accept that whether we like it or not, employees in large to small organizations alike are increasingly using social media both during and after working hours. The bigger question that you need to ask as a corporate communications pro is, “Are they saying things online that could potentially jeopardize your brand’s reputation or on the contrary enhance your brand value?” We all know, social media is here to stay and as companies figure out ways to leverage digital platforms for a wide variety of reasons: customer service, online reputation, consumer campaigns, internal collaboration across multiple offices, cause marketing, it is critical that they also implement a SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY FRAMEWORK that lays certain ground rules for engagement. Don’t let the word “policy” alarm you. I will share with you some best practices on how some big brands have laid out their online communications framework to facilitate an enterprise-wide adoption of social media so you can pick and choose what works best for your organization. The key point to remember is your social media policy is an evolving document and must be revisited and revised periodically. I have shortlisted four big brands that represent a range of verticals (B2B, B2C, Hospital, Non-profit) to highlight key fundamentals in creating a policy that works for you. Keep in mind that the nature of your business defines how specific your social media policy guideline needs to be. For e.g. the rules of engagement for a hospital system need to comply with patient privacy/HIPPA regulations while a financial services company needs to adhere to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) guidelines.
Best Buy: Helping Employees Humanize the Brand (Be Smart, Be Human, Be Respectful)
Best Buy does a great job of keeping their social media policy simple and straightforward and the core focus is on helping their staff humanize the brand. The rules of functioning in an electronic world are “the same as the values, ethics and confidentiality policies employees are expected to live every day, whether you’re Twittering, talking with customers or chatting over the neighbor’s fence.” Besides reminding their employees about transparency, respecting privacy, legal use of company and customers’ information and acting as brand advocates, what I also like about Best Buy’s policy is the gentle reminder of the consequences someone might have to face if they violate the online policy:
“Just in case you are forgetful or ignore the guidelines above, here’s what could happen. You could:
• Get fired (and it’s embarrassing to lose your job for something that’s so easily avoided)
• Get Best Buy in legal trouble with customers or investors
• Cost us the ability to get and keep customers
Here’s the link to Best Buy’s Social Media Policy http://forums.bestbuy.com/t5/Welcome-News/Best-Buy-Social-Media-Policy/td-p/20492.
Coca Cola: Investing in Employee Training with Social Media Certification Program
For a consumer brand like Coca Cola that gets over 5,000 conversations a day, the pressure is high to keep it fresh and “happy” for their fans and followers online. If you are a consumer brand with a potential to get a high volume of interaction online, you can imagine the army of social media brand evangelists you need to have to respond in real time. What we can learn from Coca Cola is the investment they have made in the CONTINUOUS LEARNING and TRAINING that’s required to build a cross-functional team of employees who understand different channels. All Coca Cola Associates who wish to officially represent the company online must complete the Social Media Certification Program prior to beginning or continuing these activities. Read more about Coca Cola’s Social Media Policy here http://www.thecoca-colacompany.com/socialmedia/
Ministry Health Care and Affinity Health System: Simplifying Your Social Media Policy Sometimes when we communicators followed by lawyers write down the social media policy for an organization, we tend to make it more complex than it should be. The main goal of your policy is to explain in simple terms how your employees are expected to engage online. Ann Tracy Mueller, Co-Editor, Healthcare Communications News in her blog post “Five Healthcare Social Media Policies You Must Read” highlights what Ministry Health Care and Affinity Health System has done to create a comprehensive policy which also has more simplified version to help their staff understand the basics of engagement (see bullet list below).
American Red Cross: Empowering 600 National Chapters to Actively Engage
Wendy Harman, director of social strategy at the American Red Cross has set a great benchmark in the non-profit world by creating a social-media policy based on the work of WOMMA, Dell, Sun Microsystems, IBM, Hill and Knowlton, and Fellowship Church. The Red Cross social media policy guides the charity’s more than 600 national chapters. Wendy does an excellent job of encouraging all Red Cross chapters to blog effectively. The rules of blogging are well laid out in Red Cross’ policy http://sites.google.com/site/wharman/social-media-strategy-handbook . What I really like about the Red Cross social media policy is the tone that Wendy uses to encourage all her chapters to participate online without the interference of the National Headquarters.
Part of my job as CRT/tanaka’s Social Media Director is to ensure our clients have implemented a social media policy that their employees are fully cognizant of and facilitate training sessions to help them get started. Our agency provides a standard social media policy template that you can customize according to your organizational needs. Please drop me a note if you would like a copy of the template email@example.com.
If you are attending PRSA International Conference (Oct 15th-18th) in Orlando, FL, please do join my panel on “Identify, Implement and Train: Moving Beyond Social Media Policy” on Sun, Oct 16th, 4:15-6PM. Details available at: http://bit.ly/nkzKy1. Panelists include noted PR/Digital leaders Diedre Breakenridge (President of Mango!), Diane Gomez (PRSA’s Communications Manager) and George Faulkner (Program Manager, Social Engagement, IBM) who will help you formulate a policy framework that meets your business goals.
Also check out PRSA’s social media policy toolkit http://www.prsa.org/AboutPRSA/GuidelinesLogos/ that was released earlier this year to provide social media best practices for PRSA members and volunteers. If you have a question about social media policies or need help getting started, drop me a line firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you and hope to see you at PRSA International (@PRSAICon).
Image Courtesy: Internet Marketing and Social Media http://bit.ly/nXL95S.
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