“Don’t use the F-Bomb” is a seemingly common sense rule when using social media for corporate purposes.
But, common sense is not as common as you might hope.
A purported social media expert working for a leading social media agency tweeted this for Chrysler: “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the Motorcity and yet no one here knows how to fucking drive.”
If a pro can make such a big mistake, how can you protect your brand when your employees tweet and post on your brand’s behalf?
While you can’t create common sense through policy, it does make sense to provide guidelines. A social media policy does more than make clear what mistakes to avoid. It helps you use the social media more effectively.
Here are some basic points to cover:
- Make sure people know they are personally responsible for what they write. Once something has been said, it can’t be unsaid, and there is no telling who will see what is written. Everyone should think twice before hitting the “share” button.
- Be real. Don’t create a fake persona or a faceless corporate presence. Use your real name and identify your relationship with the brand. Compare how Toyota uses real people vs. Chevy’s faceless corporation approach.
- Think about your audience. You will be talking to clients, future clients, employees, bosses, suppliers, competitors—everybody. Be careful not to alienate them. Ray Catena Lexus, a New York area car dealer “likes” The Mets on their Facebook page—how do Yankee fans feel?
- Stay away from religion, politics and sex. Good advice for polite company at a dinner party is also good advice for using social media. Be especially careful when thinking of voicing a negative opinion about anything—and never badmouth the competition.
- Don’t get defensive. Your company may come under criticism. Resist the urge to fight back. Be polite to detractors and use the opportunity to present additional information and resources. Don’t call people names or denigrate their thinking.
- Don’t misuse copyrighted material. Be sure to provide attribution for any material you share. Never post confidential material.
- Be helpful, bring value, be amusing. Don’t just blare out commercial messages and public relations fluff. If you get a reputation for being a walking, talking commercial, you’ll be considered a spammer and will be tuned out—often rudely.
The Social Media Governance Web site has an impressive library of real social media policies from many different types of companies. These can provide a template for your company’s social media policy as well as give you an idea of what issues other companies have faced and how they dealt with them.