5 posts categorized "social media policy"

10/26/2012 Why You Need a Social Media Policy, Even If You’re @HubSpot

The discussions about social media policies moved from the “nice-to-have” guidelines to the necessary legalistic, corporate documents a few years ago. Most companies who engage in social media now have some type of policy outlining guidelines and expected behavior from their employees. Some brands have a link to their policies from their Facebook “About” tabs.

The need for having an internal social policy is simple: it reduces risk. In reality, the social policy is most likely a variation on other internal, employee documents. One advantage it does have is that it clearly states what behavior is allowed and forbidden in specific social channels.

Legal teams like social policies. Social media scares them to start with, so having some type of protection is necessary for them. It’s also a good for all of the employees. The clearer companies are with their employees, the fewer misunderstandings and mistakes will happen in the social channels. Social policies won’t stop all poor behavior. But they will cause some people to pause and think before they act socially. And if companies need to take disciplinary action, employees can’t say they haven't been warned. 

Do all companies need a social media policy? Maybe. But there are certain types of companies that do themselves a disservice by not having one.

Take HubSpot, for example. HubSpot is one of the bright social media stars out of Boston. It’s seen strong growth and has assembled one of the best teams of social media thinkers in the country. It offers a suite of inbound marketing tools along with training and is a boon for both newbie social companies and more mature ones. It’s one of the reasons we at the #BTVSMB invited Rick Burnes to come to Burlington a few years back. 

Which is why I was quite surprised to see this pop-up online in a comment stream:


It made me wonder: Does HubSpot, who teaches others how to act socially, have a social policy themselves? Here is a clearly self identified HubSpot employee, a supposed social media pro, talking about minors and “Over The Pants Hand Jobs.” Posting on company time no less. 

Now maybe I missed the post where some of my social media favorites like Laura Fitton, Dan Zarella and Brian Halligan, all HubSpot gurus and some of the smartest people in the business, write about social media masturbation (although you could make the case that this IS what social media is all about. But that’s another post.). I can’t remember them tweeting about encouraging employees to make highly inappropriate comments with the brand name attached. 

Actually I’ll bet the opposite is true, given the recent examples from Chrysler and Kitchen Aid.

The super smart Mike Volpe wrote an opinion piece a few years ago arguing that having a social media policies was stupid . I think Mike only got it half right that time. You need to hire smart people AND have a social policy. I think Brian Halligan’s gang went 0 for 2 this time.

Insurance companies are risk averse industry sector. That’s an understatement. Their business is based on risk avoidance. That might be one of the reasons why many of them have been late to online and social media.

Yet in that same comment stream referenced above, there are comments from an employee of William Gallagher Associates, a company who describes themselves as “a leading provider of insurance brokerage, risk management and employee benefit services to companies with complex risks and dynamic needs.”

In the comments the young man expresses great support for the risky behavior of underage and binge drinking.  Now, I’m not an insurance guy but shouldn’t they be promoting less risk, not more? While the guy is not as easily identifiable as a William Gallagher Associates employee as the HubSpot guy, it doesn’t take much effort to find out, or to see that he too is commenting on company time.

I’ve worked with a few insurance companies in Massachusetts and I know it’s a tough, competitive environment. I’m not sure promoting binge, underage drinking is the right brand message for William Gallagher Associates. Insurance companies place a great emphasis on building trust between their sales people and their customers. Maybe saying impetous comments builds trust for some people. But I’d rather not buy my insurance from someone like that.

WGA does participate in social media: they have a very good blog, a small Twitter presence and a pretty good Web site. I bet that they don’t have a social policy either. As a risk management company, they probably should. 

I may be missing something though. WGA CEO Philip Edmundson also tweets under the name PoliticsOfObesity. It's a great stream, by the way. Could it be that he's starting a new focus, Politics of Binge Drinking, and using some of his staff for research?

None of this really comes close to the Chrysler debacle. Maybe I am picking on HubSpot, but it’s only because they’re big guns that can take it. But both of these comments are so off brand as to raise some serious questions.

What do you think?

[If you want to actually dig into the comment stream I reference put on your waders because there’s a lot of garbage there. Another example of how broken online newspapers comment sections are.]

02/22/2012 Social Media Training is the Secret Ingredient

One thing that always strikes me at social media training and certification is seeing the reactions of experienced social marketers. Even though these people have spent months, some years, working on social channels, most of them have little opportunity to discuss what they do and even to ask some really basic questions.

For the newbies, I usually see a huge sigh of relief at the end of the trainings as if to recognize “I can do this. I know what’s expected of me.”

I’ve come to realize that ongoing social media training is the missing secret ingredient in most brands social efforts. Despite all of the buzz of “social business” most businesses are not. They are still siloed and focused. Social marketing is a key, growing part of their marketing, but it’s still not so well integrated.

Social training and certification serves two purposes. First, it sets the groundwork for the dos and don’ts for the brands social marketing. We talk about best practices and we talk about the company social policies. We look at case studies including a lot of negative ones. Most importantly, we give people on the team a chance to ask questions to each other or to internal company representatives, like the legal team.

For some clients we create an online test to make sure they’ve read through the materials. But I find the unscripted part of the training critical to a brands social success. We talk about the need of company integration for social media. But often there’s little integration among the social team itself or between the social team and other key parts of the business.

The training is in essence modeling a behavior we want social marketers to continue with once they go back to their “real jobs.”


Image from VariationsOnNormal.com

It doesn’t always work, though. I’ve had clients who did the exact opposite of what they were trained to do. I’ve had clients who almost copied to a T one of the negative case studies we reviewed.

Most succeed though. And they are able to also make personal connection that make the brands social marketing more successful. It helps when ongoing training brings these people back together to reinforce the in-person connections.

Social media isn’t rocket science. Social media training can fill a critical role if a brand is looking to have social play a key role in business success.

04/23/2010 Social Strategy: Plan a Catastrophe

While more and more brands embrace social media as part of their marketing or operational strategy, many of them do so with great fear in their hearts. They craft social policies aimed less at behavioral guidance and more toward legal safeguards. While most marketers understand the need to participate and connect with people in this free-flowing arena, it goes against what most have them have learned about marketing over the years.

Thus the fear. In certain businesses, you can feel the fear from the marketing director right on up through the C-Level suite. Almost all of the fear is about losing control of the message and the conversation. People delve into social media with the fear that they'll meet overwhelming negativity and won't no how to handle it.

You can't blame them. When you read the news, a lot of the social media talk is about catastrophe. Nestle's debacle on Facebook, Domino's land mine on YouTube, Motrin miscalculation with Twitter; we accept the plethora of negative stories while we discount positive stories as exceptions.

If fear is part of the social media mix for most companies, why not embrace it? Instead of sitting around worrying for disaster to strike, why not plan one? Rather than creating a social media strategy still based on broadcasting information and responding if anyone notices, how about building conflict into your plan and directing your resources to respond to it? I know many businesses living with the fear, but I don't know of anyone who's leaning into the fear and disarming it.

The social media fear reminded me of something I saw in Sweden, when I was living there. The Swedes planned a catastrophe to happen on a huge, live TV broadcast in front of 300 million people.  In 1984 the Swedish Herrey brothers won the Eurovision contest with the pop tune "Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley." It was the first time Sweden won since Abba's "Waterloo." It was a big deal.

For Sweden, the biggest deal was that they got to host the 1985 Eurovision Song Contest, broadcast live to Europe and the rest of the world, in Gothenburg. Sweden chose performer Lil Lindfors to host the show. After the first intermission, Lil walked out on stage, her skirt caught on some staging and fell off. We watched in horror as she stood, live, in her panties and we thought "Unbelievable!" Then Lil unsnapped two buttons on her shoulders and a full-length dress covered her up.

Afterward she explained that when they were planning the show, they sat around discussing the worst thing that could happen. They agreed that a huge wardrobe malfunction would be a disaster. So instead of worrying about it, they built it right into the show. Disaster solved.

Brands in social media would do well to think about this. If you're afraid of what might happen, build it into your plan instead of waiting for it to happen. Once you're on social media with a following, consider:

  • Product/Service complaints - If people complain about your product or service, think about directing some of the complainer to Twitter or Facebook. Ask if anyone else is experiencing the problem. Solve the problem in spades, in front of everyone. You address the fear of product negativity with a plan to solve it.
  • Labor/Employee disputes - Rather than shutting them down, how about inviting some of this discussion to your social media stream? You might no solve all of the problems, but you could use the engagement to strengthen employee ties to your brand in a public place. It meets the fear of the out-of-control employee hijacking your social media.
  • Environmental/Operational practices - Rather than hoping these will never come out, make sure they show up and address them head on. Even if you can only show that you're listening and making progress, it will show you that you're not a Brand Ostrich.

I'm sure there each business has disasters and catastrophes specific to them that can cause veteran marketers and C-Levels to wake up sweating in the middle of the night at the thought of these becoming fodder on social media. Rather than hoping for the best, why not plan for them so you know what to do and have people ready to act?

Remember, if you see a bomb or grenade lying on the ground, it's better to explode it in a controlled manner than have it go off when you're not ready.  That might be your best strategy if fear of social media ends up driving a lot of your decision making.
03/12/2010 Social Media Policies and Guidelines Have Different Audiences

More and more companies, organizations and government agencies have started developing social media policies. There are lots of good examples out there and even some interactive tools to help create them. However, if your company is thinking about putting a social media policy in place here are some things to pay attention to.

Know Your Audience

Who is your policy for? It gets a little sticky since a number of people will have to approve on the actual policy, yet entirely different set of people will end up using it.

Think of this as an internal marketing project: start segmenting your audience so you can get them what they need. Remember, if you need a policy to start your social media effort, you must fulfill the needs of your audience. In general, you can segment them as follows:

  1. Legal, Financial, HR – This group tends to get nervous around social media. They’re usually highly aware of it, but the seeming lack of control and negative viral stories in the press about social media make some want to just ignore it. Or even worse, it makes them want to turn the whole thing off. For this group, you need to show them that the rules governing the offline business apply in social media as well. Spelling out privacy, intellectual property and financial disclosure limitations is key for these people.
  2. Employees – Most people who work at your organization will not participate in social media on your behalf. Unless you’re Zappos, where it seems almost everyone has a Twitter account, most employees will use social media on their own time. They may participate during working hours, but they’ll be doing it on as private individuals. For these employees, you need to tell them what you expect from them as it relates to your company. Should they tell people where they work? Can they comment on work issues? Pretty basic questions, actually, and ones that they probably figure out offline, where their audience is smaller.
  3. Social Media Participants – A few employees will make social media part of their jobs. They may provide updates, content or monitor feedback. In most cases, at some point, they will interact directly with customers online. This group needs to know what the organization expects from them. What can they say and what can’t they say? How do they deal with complainers, for example? When should they pass on information to others?

Create the Tools
Once you’ve identified your groups, you can provide them with what they need. Remember success for each group looks different for each. After you’ve solved those various needs, you can put everything in one document, as some organizations do, or you can create separate documents for each group. Here’s what you might produce:

For Legal, Financial and HR: A Social Media Policy. Start with your employee handbook or code of conduct and move those principles into social media. While you don’t have to spell out specific punishments for transgressions, you’ll have to provide some teeth to make this group feel safer. Focus your policy on making this group feel like you’re doing what you can to minimize risk. If something does go wrong, this group will need that document.

For Employees: Social Media Guidelines. Give these people some common sense guidance on how they’re supposed to behave online. Remember, you want them to help, but you don’t want everyone speaking as company representatives online. How much is enough and when should they ask for help? The social guidelines give them directions or checklists to make sure they don’t do anything they shouldn’t do.

For Social Spokespeople: Social Media Best Practices.
You want to maximize this group’s participation and effectiveness. Create a best practices document that gets more granular and has some real life examples. If these people participate daily or weekly you want to keep these best practices up-to-date and current. Try incorporating customer scenarios; they are great learning tools.

If you put all of these in one document, they may be too much for any one person to digest. Having said that, a number of companies have done just that. If it works for them, great. You may find, however, that segmenting your internal audience helps you move faster and provide more value.

And after all, that’s what social media is all about anyway.

Some good examples of social media policies and guidelines:

Coke – A concise, well-written document. They’ve addressed the three separate audiences in one place. If your organization can keep it this short, you’re doing something right.

Kodak – Labeled “Social Media Tips” this is a great primer on social media and how to use it. It’s like a course for employees. Because the layout is good, it doesn’t really feel as long as it is.

Telstra – The innovative Australian company has created social media training in the form of an online comic book. Probably because they have a younger employee pool. Something like this tells a story, rather than providing a list. It’s a good example of scenario training.

For other lists of social media policies and guidelines, visit here or here.

Screen shot 2010-03-11 at 4.20.11 PM

01/26/2010 Removing the Social Media Roadblocks

If you've thought about moving your organization into social media but haven't done so yet, you're probably facing a number of real and perceived roadblocks. Usually, places that have solid hierarchies, are publicly traded companies or are risk averse tend to hold back from social media. Loss of control feels scary, threatening and downright dangerous.

As a social media champion, your role isn't to tell people who feel this way that they're wrong or crazy. Your role is to convince them that it's worth the risk. Remember, know your audience and adjust your strategies accordingly.

Roadblock 1: The CEO
The CEO might like to see him or herself as an entrepreneurial risk taker but chances are that was a long time ago. Or he or she may be so busy and pre-occupied that this social media thing seems like much ado about nothing (and only time will tell).

Your social media strategy should be to feed the C small tidbits of:
  1. How the competition is already moving into this space and you risk falling behind.
  2. How customer satisfaction goes up or costs go down.
  3. Companies who've reduced marketing costs or increased sales.
  4. How social media increases employee connections and satisfaction.
The stories are out there. Start with Zappo's, Ford and Dell. Everyone has heard of them. You just need to be consistently sharing them and then following up with a concrete plan for your organization. Proof and plan usually opens that roadblock.

Roadblock 2: Legal, Financial or HR
If your organization has a history of unhappy labor negotiations or if you find yourself the center of a lot of financial speculation online, the powers that be will not want you to say ANYTHING online. Remember, anything you say or do can and will be used against you. So it's better to keep your social media yap shut.

Here's what you need to provide them:
  1. Create a social media policy and guidelines to show them that employees need to follow certain rules.
  2. Put together a training program for employees who participate in social media. Make sure everyone who goes through this gets a "grade."
  3. Show them the dangers and risks of NOT participating in social media or having guidelines. There are a lot of horror stories to choose from.
  4. Put together a social media crisis communications plan. They'll love this.
  5. Allow them to help you craft all of this.
  6. If you need to, put some teeth in somewhere. It goes against the grain of social media but it may be a small price to pay to remove the roadblock.
Remember, they're not wrong, they're right. You need to show them that social media is not terribly dangerous.

Roadblock 3: Other Marketers

"Who Owns Social Media?" will be the slogan that kills social media. We marketers are territorial by nature; it's what we're trained to be. You may find yourself in a tug-of-war over who gets to call the shots. This is a tough one, but you might try:
  1. Find allies in the other marketing teams and build your own skunk works group.
  2. Share stories in all of the groups of great "hybrid" marketing examples. These are starting to pop-up more and more.
  3. Focus on certain marketing gurus to make your case for you. They carry lots of weight.
  4. Invite the groups to Webinars or, better yet, go on a group trip to a conference.
  5. Let the other groups help you in putting together policies, strategies and plans.
  6. Remember, this is about team building more than anything else.
If they still won't play, make sure they know you're moving ahead and will get there first with out them.

Roadblock 4: Yourself

You are probably your own biggest roadblock. Face it, you're probably busier than ever; do you really need one more headache? You do if you're a forwarding thinking person, which you probably are if you've read this far. So, some quick tips:
  1. Set realistic goals for yourself.
  2. Get some of your excuses and time-sucks out of the way. You may have to give up Twitter for Lent to make it happen.
  3. Read books like Linchpin or Groundswell to psyche you up.
  4. Contact some big swinging Tweets for encouragement and advice.
  5. Remember, it's a job, not your entire life. If you don't succeed at it here, and it means a lot to you, that may be telling you more than anything else.
There are lots of reasons not to do things and lots of people who don't want anything to change. If you do want change, you can make it happen, even if you find people standing in your way.

My Web Sites