What came first?… social media or the social media policy?

It’s become a predictable question in organisations all over the world – “do we have a social media policy?”.

In short, if that organisation has any form of social media presence – even if it’s just a Twitter feed or Facebook page – then it should indeed have a policy. And a robust one at that.

But all too often social media involvement is well and truly underway before the ink has dried on section one of a policy. And from a communications perspective I can understand the reasons for that because in the modern day world of marketing, engagement and, ultimately, commercialism, time stands still for no man (or woman).

Frequently a fear of social media – particularly prevalent in older generations, it has been statistically proven – switches people off from the debate about it, and in turn from engaging in the process of producing the safety net policies that ultimately not only protect the individuals charged with contributing to the social media feeds, but the organisation as a whole.

Social media is a huge part of our daily lives in 2013, whether we like it or not.

I’m a fan of it (when used properly), in particular twitter. In May 2012 twitter claimed to have 10 million active users in the UK. Nearly 20% of ‘twitteratti’ world-wide are based in Britain.

Ok, the vast majority of those people are tweeting from personal accounts and have a responsibility to ‘police’ themselves. I personally believe anyone sending a tweet should operate a ‘stop and think’ policy before pressing send. Is it something you would say to someone’s face? Are there no risks to you or others in making your 140 characters or less viewable worldwide?

If the answer to both questions above is yes, then click send.

In businesses and other organisations, however, it needs to be about so much more than just those two questions.

And in forming a social media policy (and being able to answer the question posed in the title of this blog post) it is essential that Human Resources and Communications/PR colleagues are round the table and having an open and transparent conversation, together, the minute social media is mooted.

If social media is not introduced, properly and where appropriate/relevant, in most instances in the modern world then something will suffer, be it profits, ability to market the organisation across all channels, customer engagement etc.

And the flip side is that if Communications/PR departments simply sit back and avoid social media until their HR colleagues have drawn up policy then they could well miss the boat as social media is bigger than ever before and changing/developing all the time.

Even if your organisation isn’t yet engaged in the world of social media it is still well worth opening up two-way dialogue with HR. Have the comfort of the policy being drawn up, which as said previously is in place in the interests of everyone, running alongside (or maybe even sprinting slightly ahead) your efforts will give your audience confidence your plans have substance and credibility.

Click here for more details, in the form of a list of some of the world’s largest organisations and their social media policies.

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