Why You Need Social Media Guidelines
Over the past two months, between attending Content Marketing World and MarketingProfs B2B forums, I’ve had a number of conversations with marketers who are working on launching or revamping an employee advocacy program. Most of these conversations centered around finding ways to gamify and incentivize employees to share company content, or finding tools to make it easier for employees to automatically share content to their social networks.
Although these are important considerations to take into account in building an effective employee advocacy program, they don’t address one of the primary reasons that employees aren’t sharing about their employers on social media—they’re simply not clear on what’s allowed.
You may think that your intentions are obvious when it comes to encouraging employee social engagement. But recent research from Bambu by Sprout Social found one of the most common obstacles that businesses are facing is hesitation from employees. Specifically, 77.3% of those surveyed don’t feel encouraged to share company news on social media. The survey further found that employees aren’t sharing because they don’t know if their company is OK with them sharing news.
Having well-defined social media guidelines in place, and including social media training in new employee onboarding is a prime way to fix this.
Focus on the Activities You Want to Encourage
I’ve heard more than once that organizations shy away from documenting and publishing a social media policy for fear that employees will react poorly to being told what not to do in their off work time, on their personal social media channels.
This, however, makes two assumptions: first, that social media guidelines are about telling employees what not to do, and second that employee social media activity is something to be done outside of the usual course of work. Neither of these assumptions are necessarily the case.
In fact, your social media guidelines are your opportunity to directly inform employees of your social media strategy, what they can do to help you achieve it, and the resources available from you to help them do it.
What to Include in Your Social Media Guidelines
With this perspective in mind, what exactly should your social media guidelines include? At a minimum, you’ll want to cover:
- Why your brand is using social media. What are you hoping to achieve through the brand social channels? Are you looking to cultivate crowdsourced content? Quickly address customer questions and concerns?
- What kind of content your brand is creating and curating on social. Are the latest memes in keeping with your brand personality? What about Buzzfeed quizzes? Is it acceptable to use emojis in brand-affiliated social content? Are any sources off-brand for curation? Clearly outlining your social content strategy makes it less likely you’ll need to go back to employees after-the-fact and ask them to remove social content that contradicts your brand promise.
- How employees can act as social ambassadors. Be clear about your ask of employees. Are you looking for them to help amplify brand social content? Or do you want to encourage them to be creating their own blog posts and visual content that supports the brand promise?
- Any restrictions on employee social media use on the job and why. No one is psyched about not being allowed to use social media while on the job. But there are some industries, such as healthcare and financial services, that regularly block the use of social media platforms on company computers in order to protect customer confidentiality. If you block use social media at work, let employees know versus them finding out when they try to access a website and can not do so.
- Do’s and don’ts for engaging with customers on social. Do you want to encourage employees to engage with customers and fans on social, or to flag customers needing assistance to a specific brand point of contact? Make the rules of engagement easy and transparent.
- Employee social media resources. Do you have a social media training program? Or a monthly lunch and learn for employee brand ambassadors? Include them here. And don’t forget to note whom employees should contact if they have any questions about social that the guidelines don’t cover.
Are you using your social media guidelines to encourage your employee brand advocates? I’d love to hear in the comments.