According to the latest Sprout Social Index, customer queries via social media have increased by 18 percent in the last 12 months. And yet, only 11 percent of them are addressed. Even worse, companies take an average of 10 hours to follow up and send 20 times more promotional messages than actual responses!
These stats may not discriminate between B2B and B2C customers, but they are proof that many businesses are still struggling to catch up with the times. It is now imperative to monitor online conversations to uncover all customer feedback, and ensure prompt and professional communication with social media users.
Hence, the importance of having a social media policy. This written document addresses the use of social platforms within a company, highlights expected employee behaviors, and details the course of action to follow in case of issues.
Most important elements of a social media policy
A good social media policy is always simple, accessible and unambiguous. However, the more thorough it is, the better.
To ensure that all your bases are covered, here is a series of questions to ponder:
- Goals – What do you want to achieve with social media and your policy?
- Audience – What platforms do your customer base use? How do you want your company to engage with them?
- Social media knowledge – Do your employees understand the differences between those platforms? If not, can you provide training or recommend educational resources?
- Official online representatives – Who is authorized to speak on behalf of your company? What are their specific responsibilities? Who will monitor their work and online conversations about your company?
Example: VIA Rail Canada
“Only Social Media Champions are allowed to make new social media accounts that represent the Corporation, including any of its products or services. Prior to creating a new social media account, Social Media Champions will obtain the approval of the dedicated community manager, who will ensure the account respects VIA’s Social Media Policy and is created and maintained according to best practices.”
Note: Members of your social media team must be fully cognizant of their responsibilities. Otherwise, you may end up in hot water like the U.S. Justice Department for an unbecoming Tweet posted earlier this month. Accurate training is vital to ensure that 1) complaints and general enquiries are addressed the right way; and that 2) your online messages and content remain consistent with your core values.
- Expectations – Do staff understand that they are an extension of your firm? How are they required to behave online during and after work? What are the sanctions for violating your social media policy?
“If you aren’t an authority on a subject, send someone to the expert rather than responding yourself. Don’t speak on behalf of Dell if you aren’t giving an official Dell response, and be sure your audience knows the difference. If you see something being shared related to Dell on a Social Media platform that shouldn’t be happening, immediately inform the Social Media and Communities team, your manager, Ethics and Compliance or some other appropriate contact. And always remember that anything posted in social media can go viral, no matter what your privacy settings may be, so be sure you’re only posting content you would feel comfortable showing up in your boss’ inbox, your coworker’s Twitter feed or the front page of a major news site.”
- Content – What sensitive corporate information (e.g. projects, photos…) shouldn’t be shared? For example, can all employees disclose their association with your firm?
- Approval process – Who has the final say on what gets shared on social media?
- Responding to the public – Do you have a well-defined plan to communicate with your audience and customers?
Note: If your corporate website doesn’t have this information, create a page spelling out the communication process. Some elements to include are:
- Your average response time for inquiries, questions, and complaints;
- Which media to use to get the fastest response; and
- How you will deal with complaints and unruly behaviors.
The last part is especially important for social networks. On Facebook, many companies feature community guidelines in the About section of their pages. Here are some good examples:
- Aon plc – The guidelines are clear, detailed, and prominently displayed.
- IBM – The guidelines are basic but visitors are redirected to the official social media policy on the company’s website.
- General Electrics – The brand fully leverages the Mission section, which includes a part on user-generated content.
- Agilent Technologies – The Overview section shows contact information like location, phone number, and opening hours.
Twitter doesn’t allow such flexibility. However, a little creativity can go a long way. For example, KLM displays the current response time in its banner…
Don’t hit the “publish” button just yet. Your social media policy may need some tweaking.
- Take work laws into consideration, especially if you have offices in more than one country and / or states.
- Involve all corporate departments in the conversation.
- Discuss the risks involved in social networking. What steps should employees take to protect themselves and your firm?
- Clearly define the phrase ‘acceptable use’. You don’t want things like copyright infringement or illegal downloading attached to your company’s name.
- Ensure that your policy covers corporate, individual and personal social media uses, as well as future technology.
- Highlight examples of disciplinary actions for non-compliance with guidelines.
Most importantly, require staff to read your policy regularly and encourage questions.
General guidelines for policy violation
Companies’ actions tend to be scrutinized online. No blunder goes unnoticed.
So, if one of your employees has committed an infraction, take prompt action to alleviate bad press. Most firms follow the 5-step process below:
Step 1: Remove the problematic post(s) and issue a public apology.
Step 2: Make it clear that what happened goes against your policy.
Step 3: Investigate – Was / Were the post(s) deliberate or did it / they stem from lack of awareness? Was there enough communication between the different members of your social media team?
Step 4: Carry out the disciplinary measures outlined in the policy. If no dismissal is involved, provide the employee (and team) with necessary training as well.
Step 5: Review and adjust your social media policy accordingly. You can even include the infraction as a case study in the updated document.
Finally, remember to monitor social media constantly and comprehensively. Spotting an issue right away will allow you to nip it in the bud and avoid similar issues in the future.
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