Last week I attended a very interesting Facebook Marketing Summit. I was fortunate enough to be able to talk one-on-one with one of the summit’s speakers, Douglas Karr, CEO of DK New Media, the social media “go-to-person” for Webtrends who use his services on a regular basis. I was eager to know more about social media policies for businesses and social media compliance. According to Douglas, it’s important to know and follow the best practices for creating social media policies in the “wild world” of social media where there are no official laws and no truly effective ways of controlling what employees and vendors are saying about you as a business.
One such practice is transparency, and Douglas gave a great example of an organization that is so transparent about their social media policy that they made it public online. To everyone’s surprise, the organization is the U.S. Navy (to see their social media policy, just Google it). The USN takes a very simple approach to the issue: “Social media is here, there is nothing we can do about it, and we will face it openly,” which is unlike many companies that are so scared by the complexity of the social media question that they prefer not to have any official policy at all. So, Douglas’ vote was definitely FOR having a policy, but he made a good point in that companies must realize that they cannot cover every single possible issue in their policy. Monitoring is a must for every business, and they should monitor not only employees’ social activities, but the always-changing rules of Facebook (which seems to update its guidelines on what’s allowed and what’s not almost every week.)
The next big problem for companies is the action they should or should not take when they discover negative feedback on their services from customers or even their own employees. Many businesses choose to simply ignore it and not react at all – much like the case of Urban Outfitters, who was accused of stealing a single mom’s jewelry design. Lots of negative things were said about Urban Outfitters’ business practices in social media, but the retailer never followed up on these accusations. Social media experts believe it was a mistake that created a negative image of the company. According to some experts, Urban Outfitters would have been much better off commenting on the situation, apologizing and giving credit to the designer.
Social media compliance also requires training. It’s very important to educate your staff on social media policy and how social media can impact business (as well as their position and career). If you are not sure whether you should post something, consult your employee manual or code of conduct, for sure, but also consider asking the person in your company who best fits the role of online marketing manager and expert on social media communications.