More businesses are beginning to realize the power of marketing with social media and the real time benefits of social CRM on sites like Twitter. However, along with the benefits come concerns regarding compliance, reputation management and employee productivity.
There will always be those times when someone hits that send button and immediately regrets it, but when it comes to a company’s reputation the regrets can be damaging to the brand. An uninformed employee in a highly regulated industry, such as financial services, may create a compliance issue in a Facebook conversation without realizing what she has done.
Can You Avoid The Social Media Journey?
A better question is “should” you. Brands are realizing that people are talking about them on social networks with or without their approval. Employers are realizing that they can turn their employees into brand ambassadors. Social media can strengthen your brand not only as an employer but as a company. Take a look at Dell Outlet who, in a recent article, reported that Twitter has made Dell $1 million in revenue over the past year and a half.
Social networking is quickly becoming as mainstream as email and will soon make it’s way into every communication tool we use. For those companies that have not begun using social networking in workplace communications, Microsoft will soon be assisting you whether you’re ready or not. The new 2010 release of its email application Outlook will integrate with LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace, allowing users to find profiles for people in their contacts as well as view and post updates directly through Outlook.
Those organizations that figure out how to leverage those social capabilities without incurring more risk will be ahead of the game. So, how do businesses govern the social networking wildfire?
Social Media Policies
Most companies have existing communication policies that spell out how they expect employees to communicate via phone or email but few address the recent move to online conversations. Recent surveys show that seven out of ten American companies have no formal policy in place to address how the company and its employees are to utilize social media.
Any company that has a social media presence these days can benefit from having some type of policy in place to protect the company legally and financially. How much you say and regulate is up to you. Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh, has a one liner for his policy: “Be real and use your best judgment.” to allow for creativity and informal communication. While Zappos may be able to maintain the laid back policy, it’s not in every brand’s best interests to follow his footsteps.
If you need a policy in place pronto there is an online policy generator to walk you through and have your policy in minutes. PolicyTool has created a streamlined process where you simply answer a brief questionnaire and it provides you with a complete Social Media Policy customized to your company.
If you’re not sure where to begin or what to include in your social media guidelines you may want to take a look at what other companies have done. Interactive Insights Group has just put together a social media policies superlist that has load of resources to help you through. They’ve organized them into a few sections – Advice and Resources, Nonprofits and Associations, and Examples of Social Media Policies.
Social Network Compliance Software
Companies in regulated industries are well aware of the rules governing electronic communications, from correspondence and email to sales materials and advertising. There is little room for compliance goofs and for those companies there are several software options that can be set in place. Two vendors focusing specifically on social media governance are FaceTime and Socialware.
FaceTime sells an appliance, Secure Web Gateway, which monitors, controls and records content posted through the corporate network to social networking sites. With it you can control social media by setting and banning specific keywords that users may try to post on sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Users can also configure the product to prevent the post, notify the user it was against policy, record the incident and alert an administrator.
Socialware launched a cloud-based Social Middleware Platform last month which is an application that can filter, tag and archive every social post from the company network. Once live, posts can be monitored for compliance, routed for review if necessary, and archived to guarantee compliance with industry or corporate policies.
Needs Based Guidelines
When it comes to your social media policies, every company is going to differ on what type of engagement is acceptable. Even when a company has a clear social media policy in place with specifications as to what employees aren’t allowed to post, there is no guarantee that everyone will represent the company exactly as you want.
Employees can and will make mistakes, whether it be on social media sites or in some other aspect of their job, but the goal is to prevent the same mistake twice. It’s likely that your social media policy will evolve with time and experience. It doesn’t have to be twenty pages long, just a few bullet points are really necessary. You do want it to be read, right?
Does your company have social networking guidelines in place? What has been your experience with social networking, brand reputation and employee productivity? Did I miss anything that you can share here? Please leave your comments below.
To Your Success,