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07 Aug 2012

A Guide to Developing Your Social Media Engagement Policy

Developing Your Social Media Engagement Policy

Your company has adopted all of the social networking essentials – a Facebook page, Twitter account, LinkedIn profile, perhaps even a YouTube Channel – so you’re already a step ahead in the digital space, right?  While you made a concerted effort to show up for your online audience, you may be missing a key dynamic: talking WITH your customers rather than AT them. This is where companies tend to get stuck and having a social media policy in place will take customer engagement to its most important level. By directly communicating with your customers online, showing responsiveness, demonstrating expert knowledge and echoing their feedback, you will continually build value and strengthen their relationship with your brand.

With that end goal in mind, this post will help you to develop a social media policy to onboard your team and guide them in managing customer conversations online.

What is a Social Media Engagement Policy?

Let’s start by defining what a social media policy encompasses.  In simple terms, Inc. Magazine explains:  “a social media policy outlines for employees the corporate guidelines or principles of communicating in the online world.”

As evidenced above, the term is broad and refers to not only how employees represent themselves on behalf of your company, but also how they engage with your customers. While it is equally important to set forth regulations and pull in the reins on employee use of social media in the workplace, for the purposes of this post, I am focusing solely on the customer engagement aspect.

With respect to defining your company’s external social policies, Melissa Agnes writes in her post for Social Media Today, the goals for developing guidelines should be:

    • To identify the purpose of social media for your brand
    • To keep your company’s social media marketing efforts consistent, no matter how many members of your team are actively representing your brand online
    • To keep in-line with your brand’s voice, visual identity, goals and objectives

There are also two key components of online reputation management that should not be overlooked:  preventing false or negative information from spreading and encouraging the sharing of more desirable information.

What Research Shows

Social networks like Facebook and Twitter, along with support forums are rapidly becoming the primary mode of communication between business and customers.

According to a study by IBM, nearly six in ten CEOs (57%) expect social media to become a dominant method of engaging with customers over the next five years, more than triple the 16% who say social media is now a top way to engage customers. CEOs expect customer interaction via social media over the next five years to surpass websites (55%), channel partners (38%), and call centers (31%) to become the second most popular way to interact with customers.

Now that we’ve established the direction your customer relationships are headed, let’s explore how you can best prepare your social media team.

Developing Your Engagement Policy

What are some of the Rules brands should follow when using social media? Brian Solis offers a great resource with The Top 25 Best Practices for Drafting Policies and Guidelines, but for the basics, keep these core areas in mind when formulating your policy:

Define Your Social Media Team

Determine which individual (s) in the organization will have ownership of social media activities based on their experience and skill level.

Create the User Experience

Determine what you want the user to experience when engaging with your company on social platforms.  This will provide your team with insight on how to position themselves with the community.

Set the Tone of Voice

Keep in mind that you are speaking to your customers in a social space, so while it’s important to maintain a professional tone, make sure you are also exuding personality by keeping it conversational. It should be made clear that personal views should not be shared and that team is representing and speaking on behalf of the company.

Address What to Post

Share examples for maintaining dialogue.  Encourage your social team to spark conversation by posing questions, posting polls and sharing content that will encourage participation. To strengthen the connection fans have to your brand, re-share what they are posting on social channels.

Advise on Posting Frequency

Above all, consistency is key. Your overall goal should be to have fans interact with your brand every day through commenting, responding to feedback and posting engaging content. Researching peak times your audience is online will help to establish key time-frames.

Establish Customer Service Expectations

You want your fans and followers to feel like valued members of your community so it is important to set your online customer service expectations.  Think of Twitter and Facebook as extensions of your customer service reps and set expectations by publishing your support hours on your social channel profiles, so if a customer reaches out over the weekend, for example, they can anticipate not hearing back until Monday.

Give Best Practices for Handling Negativity

When addressing customer complaints, it is best to switch from a defensive to an offensive position. While individual situations should be addressed directly, there may be widespread issues that warrant community feedback.  In this case, make sure to have appropriate responses ready for general issues.

What Are Other Companies Saying?

When it comes to setting social media guidelines, there is no need for a hefty document addressing every possible scenario. Keep it simple but be clear by outlining key expectations and rules for speaking to customers, while allowing for a little creative freedom with the delivery.  Here are some great examples:

Kodak.com

Gap.com

Edmunds.com

Walmart.com

Which Companies are Getting it Right?

The companies that are successfully using social platforms to engage with customers are transparent, accountable and trustworthy. Take a look at these examples to see how they are accomplishing this:

Naked Pizza Twitter

Home Depot Twitter

Southwest Airlines Twitter

Dell Twitter

Start Today!

At Le Web ‘12, the Founder and CEO of Socialbakers, Jan Rezab, revealed in a talk entitled ‘Social Media Numbers,’ that 70% of all fan questions posted on social media channels are not responded to. And while 80%-90% of companies are participating in social media, only 30% are using it properly.

This is huge opportunity for brands to improve their response rate! With your customers already moving their feedback online, there is no better time to develop a social media response program.  Use the resources in this post to guide you in formulating the best approach for your social team.

Do you have a social media team in place? Let us know your management tips!