As a marketer, social media is undeniably important – in fact, in 2020, three-quarters (74%) of all global marketers now invest in social media marketing.
Social media can help you engage with new audiences, increase brand awareness, handle customer service inquiries, and even increase sales. (As an avid Instagram user, I can't count the amount of times I've "Swiped Up to Purchase" on a link from a popular influencer.)
But there's plenty of risk involved with social media, as well. Among other things, a bad social media post could spiral into a full-blown PR crisis or get your business into legal trouble.
Fortunately, there is a tactic you can use to ensure your social media strategy is safe, consistent, and scalable as your company grows and different employees get access to your social media accounts: a social media policy.
Let's explore how these five companies created effective social media policies to inspire your own, today. Just remember, there isn't just one 'right' policy for every company. Pick and choose what you like from these five companies to help get you started, and tailor it to fit your culture and business objectives.
But first, let's dive into a few benefits of a social media policy.
Benefits to a Corporate Social Media Policy
You might be worried about providing too many strict rules on your social media strategy. Will it diminish the authenticity you're hoping to evoke in your posts, or take too much creative freedom away from your employees?
Fortunately, if done correctly, a social media policy won't ruin the creative freedom you're hoping to protect. If anything, it will enable your employees to feel more comfortable amplifying your social media messages on their own channels, knowing each post is fully aligned with your business's values and tone.
Here are a few major benefits to creating a corporate social media policy:
- Maintain consistency of brand voice, tone, and messaging across social channels
- Prevent a PR crisis as a result of a potentially offensive post
- Enable employees to handle legal and regulatory issues with sensitivity
- Protect data privacy of customers and stakeholders
- Have effective responses at-the-ready for crises or data breaches, if they do occur
- Instill confidence in your employees' to use their own creativity when creating and posting branded content, as long as they align with the corporate policies
- Ensure each new employee will have the tools to create a positive, consistent, and valuable brand message across social channels
Now that we've covered that, let's dive into five businesses that got social media policy right.
1. Best Buy
Best Buy has a social media policy in place that preemptively addresses privacy concerns that could arise using social media.
Here are some highlights of Best Buy's social media policy:
- The company does not want information shared that isn't meant to be public. Common sense? I'd think so, but it can't hurt to formally reiterate.
- Tweeters cannot share Best Buy logos and other items related to the company. Does this seem overly cautious? I guess that depends on the industry you are in. For a big brand like Best Buy, it's understandable.
- Best Buy wants each employee to differentiate themselves and state their tweets and posts are theirs — and theirs alone — and not associated with Best Buy. This ensures, if an unscrupulous employee crosses a line, Best Buy won't experience such harsh brand backlash.
- Best Buy urges each employee (whether posting on Best Buy's social channels or on their own channels if it relates to Best Buy) to "Honor Our Differences" and never post content that could be seen as discriminatory against any group, for any reason.
Walmart is dedicated to their social media accounts, and believe in social media as an avenue for customer service — because of this dedication, their policy regarding Twitter is reasonable and something I wish more Twitter users would follow in their daily tweeting.
Here are some of my favorite aspects of their policy:
- Walmart doesn't discourage its employees from sharing their own opinions — however, they ask each employee to support their claims with informational sources or links, stating, "We love opinions; we love them even more when you back them up with facts."
- They ask employees to be "polite and courteous, even if you disagree." They're strongly against employees using social media to discriminate, bully, or harass.
- Walmart advises its employees to "stay on topic", and only create content that is relevant to Walmart's community.
- Walmart asks all employees to avoid responding to customer inquiries or comments directly unless they're part of the official Walmart social team. This is a smart move, as it ensures less confusion or ambiguity for customers who are aiming to receive customer service from a trusted official.
3. Ford Motors
One of the oldest and most popular automotive makers, you'd expect Ford to be relatively old-fashioned when it comes to social media, but Ford's rules are both refreshing and straightforward.
One of my personal favorites? "Awareness that what you say is permanent". In a world largely interested in quick-likes and controversial opinions for the sake of retweets, Ford's approach is a good reminder that what you say today matters for the future of your company's reputation.
A couple call-outs:
- Ford tells its employees to "Mind your manners", and treat everyone — from co-workers to suppliers to competitors — with respect.
- While Ford wants its employees to "make it clear the views expressed are yours," it also reminds its staff that "you speak for yourself, but your actions reflect those of Ford Motor Company". This is a good lesson: people often make judgments about an entire company's values based on their opinion of the personnel they interact with, so it's critical even personal employees' accounts reflect integrity and respect.
- Ford's policy tells its employees "the internet is a public space", and says "no matter how obscure or secure the site to which you're posting may seem … consider everything you post to the Internet the same as anything you would post on a physical bulletin board or submit to a newspaper." This is important. Nowadays, posting on Instagram might seem like NBD, but it's critical we remember anyone can see what we post (or, what we posted five years ago...).
4. New York Times
One of the most popular media institutions in the world, The New York Times recognizes the price for its popularity — namely, that anything their employees state on their personal accounts could come across as the official opinion of The Times.
To cultivate its social media policy, the Times collected quotes from several Times reporters — this provides additional accountability and a sense of fairness, as it demonstrates several employees' endorsement of their policy.
Here are some sections worth reviewing:
- "In social media posts, our journalists must not express partisan opinions, promote political views, endorse candidates, make offensive comments or do anything else that undercuts The Times’ journalistic reputation." Ultimately, the Times aims to be objective, and that objectivity needs to be applied to its employees' personal social media captions and comments, as well.
- The Times urges its employees to avoid making customer service complaints on social media, and for good reason — the media corporation acknowledges its employees might be given special consideration as a Times reporter or editor, and doesn't feel it's fair that their employees leverage this special treatment or tarnish another brand's reputation.
- The Times includes an unusual request in its policy: in the name of transparency, it asks its employees to acknowledge if they've deleted a post or tweet with a subsequent tweet, to ensure they appear honest even if they've made a mistake.
This Boston-based SaaS company takes a stricter approach to its social media policy, but if you're in the software space, it's a good policy to review.
Here are some of the highlights of Oracle's social media policy:
- Oracle appears to be of the ilk that using social media in the workplace is a hinderance to productivity because it could lead to too much personal use. Understandable? Yes. Too strict? Debatable. While it can be good to blur the line between personal and professional in social media, that balancing act isn't always appropriate in regulated industries.
- Employees must establish that all opinions are their own and not Oracle's, but at the same time, distinguish that they are indeed employees of Oracle. Contradictory? No. Blog posts can increase brand exposure, but employees must be careful with what they say and how they say it, not divulging new features, products, or confidential information.
- Oracle advises its employees avoid discussing future offerings or impending product releases due to "potential revenue recognition issues". This is a good call-out, since unofficial promotions of product launches or additional features could confuse customers, especially if the information regarding those product launches change before official release.
Ultimately, the rules and regulations you choose to include in your policy should reflect your own brand's values, messaging, and tone. However, hopefully you can use these examples to ensure you include statements that can help protect you against legal or regulatory disputes in the future based on an employees' social media posts.
Additionally, aim to use your social media policy to increase your social media strategies' effectiveness and ensure you're creating a positive brand image on any platform on which you post.