A couple of years ago my co-author Amanda Walter and I were asked to set up a social media strategy for Lake Flato. Lake Flato is an award-winning architecture firm based in San Antonio, Texas that specializes in sustainable architecture influenced by the natural environment. After meeting with the principals of the company, we interviewed their staff to get a sense of their existing social media use and interests. We asked the employees about their unique backgrounds, both professionally and personally, and about the groups and affiliations they belonged to and were active members of.
Our goal behind doing this was to identify the employees that had a genuine interest in communicating on behalf of the company via social networks, and to pinpoint who would provide a fresh, thoughtful perspective that aligned with the company’s overall mission, brand and goals. We knew this could help propel a new social media effort more quickly.
Choosing the right employee voices to carry the company message to the public is just one element to consider when building an internal social media outreach plan. Setting up thoughtful employee guidelines is another critical component.
Recommended Employee Guidelines
Employee guidelines can vary based on industry, business objectives, and brand. We’ve pulled some “best practices” of corporate employee guidelines for social media use, to help you come up with your own.
1. Only engage if you can have a constructive conversation.
In other words, not ALL posts need a comment back. Recognize the difference between an angry rant and a concerned comment and respond back only if it is relevant.
2. Engage only when impact can be made.
Be sure that what you’re posting adds value to those engaging. Always adding value includes sticking to your area of expertise. Employees should be encouraged to comment only if it is in an area they specifically work first hand.
3. Be transparent. Be yourself. Be smart. Be respectful. Be human. Be professional.
These are the key traits we see on social media policies and that we agree are important characteristics for engaging in social media. Posts should always be kept in a positive tone, and should always be respectful of others — especially competitors.
4. Identify what information should never be made public.
Work with your legal team and speak with your clients to understand which issues should not be discussed. A good test is asking yourself “will this information help us help our clients?”
5. Designate times when employees can use the social web during work hours.
It’s a good idea to set designated times when you allow employees to use the social web. Many companies that allow employees to engage online only do so outside of normal business hours. Our advice? It really depends on your overall goals, but often you need to comment when conversations happen and waiting until “after business hours” may be too late.
Are you allowing your employees to engage on social media on behalf of your business? Do you have additional advice you’d like to share about what’s worked and what hasn’t? Have you set up certain guidelines you’d like to share? I’d like to hear about it. Please share your comments below.
Holly Berkley is an author, educator, speaker and professional Internet Marketing Consultant focused on helping all size businesses increase online sales, strengthen their overall brand, and dramatically boost web site traffic through proven online marketing concepts. Berkley’s newest book is “The Social Media Advantage – An Essential Handbook for Small Business” Learn about her latest books and marketing services at www.BerkWeb.com