A good social media policy can help your organisation fulfill its mission

social-media-policyAs organisations have increasingly turned to social media, policies to govern their use have become the new frontier. It can be difficult for organisations to find examples that fit their needs. A good social media policy will provide clear guidelines as to what staff should and shouldn’t do when posting and interacting with the community. A good social media campaign can help your organisation fulfill its mission, and there are many examples of organisations using these tools successfully. But there are also examples of organisations that have encountered pitfalls along the way. By developing a policy that provides guidelines for how and when to use social media, you can save staff time, improve the effectiveness of your efforts, and limit the risk of other potential problems.

Defining a Policy

Before you write the plan, think about who is going to follow the policy and whether it fits into a larger plan. Existing policies could influence your guidelines for social media, so give some thought to whether they need to match with regard to style. Similarly, your social media policy is your opportunity to guide staff towards a better fit with your organisation’s brand and values presence on social media.

Identifying and incorporating values

Think of your social media presence as an interactive extension of your organisation. It’s often the first and easiest way for stakeholders to learn about you and comment on, share, and applaud your actions. Start with your organisation’s mission, and identify a short list of values central to the work you do. Defining your core values helps ensure that you incorporate them into your social media guidelines.

Assigning roles

Who will be the person interacting with your community through social media? Who maintains the Twitter feed, and who posts to Facebook? Is it one person, or several? Well-defined roles and responsibilities among staff will help to eliminate the ambiguity that can often come with social media content creation. Remember, social media works best when it is current, active and responsive — it’s easier to allow for that when everyone is clear about who can post, when and how often. It’s often easier to keep content organised if the social media strategy is owned by an individual or small group.

Creating and sharing content

Whether you’re posting about your organisation’s work or events, there are plenty of topics to post about. Use your policy to narrow your focus to fit with your organisational goals. By finding your niche and creating or sharing mission-related content, you’re more likely to draw people in and entice them to return. This is also the time to consider what types of content should never be posted, or posted only with approval. This can be as simple as maintaining a certain image for your organisation, or as complex as protecting it from legal problems. A good policy that defines what can and can’t be posted can help prevent problems from arising.

Monitoring conversations and responding

Social media is a two-way conversation so your policy should not just inform external communications but how you deal with what people say to, and about, you. Creating and publishing content means it’s open to comments, both good and bad, and can be shared with other networks, often without your knowledge. You could choose to disable comments on your Facebook page, but then you’d miss out on one of social media’s greatest benefits. Instead, develop a strategy for monitoring and responding to comments, both positive and negative. Who will respond? Will you do it public or take the discussion offline? Responding thoughtfully can turn a bad situation into a positive “customer service” moment and publicly correct misinformation. If you receive a customer service complaint, determine who will handle it and what they will say. A good way to develop a response policy is to practice with a series of hypothetical situations.

Answering hypothetical questions

If you receive a complaint or a post with misinformation in it, you should take the opportunity to respond. Determine who will do so, and what they will say. Consider removing comments that will damage your community. Some negative posts are better left unanswered, especially if a response is likely to incite the poster into further action. Don’t just reply to negative comments — be a part of the conversation and reply to positive or neutral comments to create a rich, informative environment for your audience. Answer questions that arise, invite others into the conversation, and thank people for participating. Your responses put a human quality to your content and can create a feeling of goodwill in your community.

Protecting privacy

In an era where sharing content is so easy, and even encouraged, privacy concerns seem to be often overlooked or ignored. Part of the problem lies with the tools — new privacy complaints about Facebook and Twitter seem to pop up all the time — but it’s important to review your organisation’s privacy and permissions policies. Start by examining your existing policies for relevant information. When can you use photos or names of children, do you need their permission? Update your policies and waiver forms to include the social media channels you plan to use — there’s a big difference between getting someone’s permission to use their photo on a brochure, and using that same photo in a blog post or on your Facebook page.

Enforcing the line between personal and professional

In many cases, you want your social media presence to be as personal as possible. But you can run into problems when the line between the personal lives of your staff and your organisation’s goals are blurred. What type of personal information can be posted to your organisation’s social media channels? Do you only allow mission-related posts, or can staff express personal opinions or share information about major life events. Defining the boundaries in advance can prevent inadvertent problems, but make sure your staff understands how the policy relates to their own, personal social media use. Even if staff don’t self-identify as employees on their Twitter feeds or Facebook pages, in most cases, a good number of people still know where they work. To address that, your policy might train staff on the effective use of social media, and ask them to adopt strict privacy settings on personal pages.

 Creating your policy

You can’t foresee or protect against all possibilities, but being proactive and thoughtful when creating a policy can help ensure that your organisation gets the most benefit out of its social media efforts while avoiding many of the problems. The return on your efforts is likely to be worth the extra consideration. Start by identifying your team, and make sure all the right stakeholder groups are represented. Ask and answer the questions identified here to help get the conversation started, but don’t hesitate to ask other questions specific to your organisation’s work and goals. Your policy should ultimately fit your own use of social media, and your own needs.

International Social Media Marketing – Remember Research Helps!

International-social-media-marketingToday, every brand is a global brand. Customers around the world can access your content, discover and interact with other customers, and add their voice to the conversation about your brand. As a marketer you need to be conscious of the different needs of your audiences. This creates some challenges. How do you meet the needs of an audience that speaks multiple languages? How do you appear responsive when your customers are in several time zones? How do you segment and prioritise your social media efforts?

There’s a definite shift going on in social media at the moment. It comes in the form of a major move from seeing social media as something ‘ad hoc’ and tactical to seeing it as something that needs a framework, a strategy and an overall plan in order to actually deliver on its promises. One element of this is the desire by businesses to make sure that their social media works not just locally, but in every market in which they have a presence.

Facebook has indeed become the most popular social network in many countries, but the overall social media landscape is – even in countries where Facebook is no. 1 – way more interesting than that and Facebook shouldn’t always be the first choice. However, it’s not only choosing the right network that matters. If you want to improve your turnover with the help of international social media marketing, as well as increase your brand’s popularity, you’ll have to get acquainted with the culture of your target audience and take a lot of other things into consideration.

When you take a closer look at the social media landscapes in different countries, it becomes obvious that there are still many important players that marketers haven’t discovered as useful platforms to promote their brand. Although Facebook has 1.155 billion monthly active users and an established leadership position in 127 out of 137 countries. Last months Zuckerberg’s Army lost Latvia to Draugiem, which has 2.6 million registered users. In Russian territories there is a long battle between two main local players V Kontakte and Odnoklassniki. In China QZone still dominates the Asian landscape with 611 million users, followed by Tencent Weibo, Sina Weibo and RenRen. In Iran, where it’s hard to access Facebook due to state censorship, the leader is Cloob.

So, if you want to target certain audiences in a foreign country via social media marketing, you must first decide on which networks you should be active. International social media studies such as Wave 6 from Universal McCann will then tell you how appropriate social media marketing is for your target audience. In the recent study 65.2% of the respondents worldwide stated that they have been active on a social media profile in the last six months. Countries above this average were Brazil 74.3%, Russia 77.1% and China 68.9%, indicating that social media strategies should therefore be effective in these countries.

In principle the same rules apply for foreign audiences, as well as the domestic market, when it comes to content creation. You have to offer your fans and followers something valuable – that is, informative or entertaining content that would connect potential customers with the company. In general, there are a few rules of content creation for global brands. Don’t rely on Google Translate to create local language content. Always use a professional translation service and have a native speaker to check it. If you can use images wherever possible – pictures and graphics are much easier to digest for international audiences and relevance is critical. Local teams are not just your boots on the ground, but they’re your eyes and ears too. Setup regular conference calls or try to make sure teams or representatives meet face to face as often as they can.

There is something that you must keep in mind though, when targeting a foreign language audience: “foreign language” often means that there are cultural differences to be taken into consideration.  With this in mind you should thoroughly research what kind of content is good and what might be problematic. Brands need to be proactive about this and manage it strategically, without stifling innovation or ignoring local needs and nuances.

The management and measurement of these social media channels should also be a consideration. A social media policy is a good opportunity to ensure everyone understands how the organisation uses social media and helps to establish the ground rules for social media marketing. It also helps to clarify the crises procedure, where you can define what constitutes an issue and describes the escalation process.  Measure a global social media programme in the same way you would measure any campaign. Be sure to establish outcomes that reflect your business goals, then Key Performance Indicators to show progress toward those outcomes.