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How to Develop a Social Networking Policy: 14 questions you need to answer

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How to

Today we’ve got another Guest Blog by Alison Cross from AlisonCross4Webs.co.uk. Its all about how to develop a Social Networking Policy for your business. Over to Alison.

Last week we had a (cue Mrs Merton) heated debate about whether or not its OK to use Social Networking websites at work. There’s no doubt that some businesses lose money because employees are spending time on social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, blogs and Twitter. On the other hand, some actually benefit from employee involvement in Social Networking.

Time Wasting or Money Making?

These sites CAN be enormous spinning vortexes of wasted time and energy, but they can also provide a brand new channel through which your target audience can access your goods and services.

Today more than ever it is important that companies are seen to be part of the discussion about their own goods and services. To stay out of the discussion suggests that your customers’ opinions don’t count. Who needs that kind of reputation?!

It requires courage to join the discussion because you won’t be able to control the comments, but to be seen to be listening to clients’ comments and opinions can help your business/brand enormously.

Developing a Social Networking Policy

But – before you create your Facebook account, jumping into the social networking waters for business purposes without some kind of plan is to court death by drowning in Tweets!  Having a plan – a flexible, regularly updated plan – will help you turn social networking from a Business Suck to a Business Success.

If you have many employees, this would be a task for your Human Resources Department (Personnel!).  However, if you are only a small business with a handful of employees and no distinct HR Department, designing that policy is going to fall on your shoulders.

This post is aimed at YOU, the small business who needs to get a grip on those man hours lost by employees adrift in cyberspace and busy doing the work that YOU are paying them for.

I don’t recommend creating your Social Networking policy without consulting your employees in some way.  It’s such a fast-developing area, they may be more clued up than you! Listen to their input fairly.  You never know, it might just result in a truly inspired business presence on the networking sites!

I envisage that there are two types of employee here:

A)    The employee whose job remit is to be the public face of your business on Social Networking platforms.
B)    The employee who’s just faffing around on company time.

14 questions you need to answer in order to develop your social networking policy:

1.   Goal – what is it that you want to achieve with your involvement in social

2.    How will you quantify your business’s success in social networking?

3.    Will it be a project with a time limit or an ongoing involvement?

4 .   To which social networking platforms are you directing your efforts and why have you chosen them?  E.g. – is there any evidence that being present will have a positive influence on your business/customer interface?

5.    Which employees are working as your official social networking staff?

6.    On what basis are they acting on your behalf?
Are they working as a team (anonymously involved under business name)?
Are they to be recognised as named individuals?
How will your logo/brand be used?

7.    What kind of communication is permitted? Eg – Product information on Facebook? Discount vouchers on Twitter? Personal comments?

8.    What kind of communication is not permitted? Eg – disparaging the company or a client?

9.    When is communication permitted (for type 1 and type 2 employees it will probably be different – if you are taking social networking seriously as a business tool). For type 2, only after certain specified tasks carried out?

10.    What are the consequences for breaching the communication rules?  Verbal warnings, written warnings, instant dismissal?

11.    Will there be different consequences depending on the level of position within the company? Is it more serious if your Director of Finance is found slagging off the CEO’s dinner party in his blog than the junior store-keeper blogging the same gossip?

12.    Do these regulations apply solely within business hours?

13.    Consider the consequences of possible identity fraud on these sites. Do you know what to do if someone steals your logo/details and sets up as YOU?

14.     Bullying – your bullying policy may need to be extended to cover cyber-bullying.  The tragic results of sustained bullying on networking sites are well-documented in the press. Make sure your company/school has a policy in place.

This list of questions is not by any means exhausted, but should be able to get you started in formulating your own policy.

What else would you add to a social networking policy for your business?

About Alison Cross
Alison Cross lives on the Isle of Bute where she has built over a dozen websites using our software. She also helps people use Twitter to market their business. For more info or advice about social media or web design, visit her website alisoncross4webs.co.uk.

  • http://www.alisoncross4webs.co.uk Alison Cross

    ooooh – that’s an unfair pic to put up, Ken!!!!

    I’m not saying no to social media at all!!!! ;-)

    I’m just saying that if a company doesn’t have some kind of policy – how will employees know when they have breached it? How could employer take an employee to task if there are no guidelines in place….that kind of thing.


  • admin

    I take your point! It was the best I could find at short notice. I will have another look now ;-)


  • admin

    Done, what do you think of that?


  • http://www.alisoncross4webs.co.uk Alison Cross

    Much better!!!! Thank you. 12 Retweets?! That’s BRILLIANT! AX

  • http://www.redsixty.com Sheldon W

    Great post Alison! I know we talked in some detail last week about the negative aspects of social networking at work as well as looking at the case highlighting the positives. I think the overall conclusion was very much that ignoring the phenomenon is the single worst thing to do. The best thing to do is create a policy and then, more than that, work to have social networking become part of the culture. And what you’ve written addresses this really well in many respects.

    Only thing I would say (and it’s just my opinion) is that I think the 2 types of employee you list doesn’t cover everyone. I would have a third type of employee (possibly even more); one that would actually use the platforms to interact in a non public way, but a way that has a big positive impact on the company – i.e. using twitter (or to keep things a little more off-grid yammer) to update (and be updated by) colleagues. Using Facebook groups to share information from team building days, or nights out (for example) may be a great way to re-enforce the objectives of these kinds of activities, but they may not necessarily be public facing and to treat them as such may be seen to be a little heavy handed, may limit participation and lessen their impact.

    On this latter point, I guess my thinking is that many social networking platforms can be used to replace the way staff interact and collaborate with each other, not just with customers. I’m thinking Intranet, email and so on.

    It may require a slightly softer approach within the policy for this staff interaction and would change some the elements you have (i.e. questions 5 & 6 would actually refer to everyone, so there would need to be So I’d probably have another section containing questions for staff interaction using social networking tools, and change the ones you have to be for those elements involving customer or public interaction.

    I know all I’ve done is said what I’d do without actually doing it! So I’ll have a think about how I would add to what you have written. But that’s all I would do, add some extra bits, I think what you have put together, given the types of employee you identified is really fantastic.

  • http://www.alisoncross4webs.co.uk Alison Cross

    Thanks for your positive comments, Sheldon – I appreciate it ;-)

    Although my posting was really focusing on the social network platform at a business/public level, you are absolutely right, a fully rounded policy should have guidelines for those employees or outworkers who are communicating with each other within your business.

    Thank you!

    Ali x

  • admin

    Thanks to you both for getting involved with this discussion.

    Its very interesting reading – and I’ve learned from it (about what we should actually do here in the office!)