Why a Social Media Policy Is Stupid

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Mike Volpe
Mike Volpe



social media policy(This is an opinion piece. Feel free to debate in the comments.)

And over the past couple years there has been a lot of discussion and writing in marketing blogs about it: David Meerman Scott has written about the Department of Defense's policy, Todd Defren wrote about social media policies recently, Tamara Schweitzer gave some tips on Inc.com, Charlene Li of Altimeter create a resource, Sharlyn Lauby blogged on Mashable, Beth Kanter wrote Got Social Media Policy?, and Jason Falls wrote What Every Company Should Know About Social Media Policy.  I'm sure I missed a ton of others, let me know if there are big ones missing.

In all this discussion, I always felt uncomfortable telling people to create a social media policy.  We don't have a social media policy at HubSpot.  But I didn't want to recommend something against common wisdom for fear of getting virtually wacked by the social media mafia.

But, enough is enough.  Let's end the madness today.

Social Media Policies are Unnecessary and Distracting

I don't think companies need a social media policy.  In fact, having a specific social media policy runs counter to the whole point of marketing and customer service.  No single channel of interaction is more important than others.  Social media is not something weird or different, it is just one of many ways your company interacts with people.  Giving social media its own policy implies that phone, email and in-person interactions are not important or less important.  If a customer sends you a message by carrier pigeon - dammit you should answer - even if you don't have a "fowl messaging policy".

For example, if you have a store and a customer complains to a cashier about something, and your cashier yells at the customer telling her she is wrong, you'd fire the cashier on the spot.  Same thing if that happens on the phone or email.  No "policy" needed.  It just makes sense that you treat customer right.  You don't have a "voice media policy" or an "email communication policy".  And I say that if that same interaction happened on Yelp or Facebook, you should fire them too.  Even without a policy.

In the B2B world, if you saw one of your employees drunk at a tradeshow and they said a bunch of disparaging things about a customer you'd probably fire them.  Again, no policy required.  So why is that different if they get a little tipsy and tweet something insulting about a customer?  It's not.

I think the best "policy" is to hire smart people, give them the right coaching and training, set the correct culture around customer interaction, and then punish those who misbehave.

Rather than having a social media policy, if you feel like your company needs something, how about creating a communication policy that governs all communication, no matter what medium.

Your thoughts on a social media policy?  Leave a comment below.

Photo Credit: bookgrl

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