Why every brand needs a social media policy

Over the last 12 months, as to be expected, there has been further acceleration in the uptake of social media amongst retailers. This is a result of increasing usage amongst a wider demographic, new networks popping up (such as Pinterest), as well as the role social plays in wider search, content and customer experience strategies.

Regardless of the goals you have for your social presence (whether customer acquisition, retention, customer care, brand awareness, etc.) a key foundation for success is a comprehensive social media policy. This should include:

  • Branding, tone and vocabulary guidelines
  • Customer service guidelines
  • Negative interaction protocol
  • Respectful practice guidelines
  • Legal practice and copyright awareness

Remember one size doesn’t fit all – a social media policy should be tailored to the brand. Depending on the nature of your organisation, there may be unique factors you need to consider, so don’t be tempted to use a template for your social media policy.

Here are a few important roles a good policy can fulfil:

Branded communication
Use your social media policy to guide branding across channels. We all use social media in our free time; clearly stating key buzz words, brand values and vocabulary to avoid prepares your employees to interact as brand representatives, communicating your values and writing in the correct tone of voice.

Protection for yourself and your employees
Clearly stating procedures within a social policy will help to safeguard you and your employees from negative situations and mistakes. Outlining  employee roles (for example, who leads customer service dialogue) reduces confusion around responsibility and optimises time and resource. Highlighting  legal practice, platform rules and copyright awareness is vital to ensure you aren’t in breach of the CAP digital remit.

Deliver  seamless customer service
A good social media policy will guide the customer service process, ensuring the employees responsible are aware of correct protocol for escalation and importantly, who to notify within the company if a volatile situation occurs. Negative comments are inevitable in every social space – it’s how you deal with them that will set you apart from competitors.

Avoid social faux pas:
We all know how much negative media attention the wrong tweet or post can generate. Remember Urban Outfitters’ ill-considered sales tweet amid the devastation of super storm Sandy in October 2012?

It’s tempting to think that if you have a small social team you’re unlikely to commit a social faux pas. The real time nature of social coupled with human nature can be a recipe for unintentional disaster. Neatly outlining the rules encourages employees to think twice before they tweet.

While it’s important to lay out the rules, make sure your policy isn’t too restrictive. Social media is a leisure space for consumers and interaction should be responsive and flexible; in most cases it should also be fun for all involved, both the brand and the consumer. Therefore, whilst social media policies are necessary don’t let them suffocate the spirit of social media.

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