If you are like the rest of the millions of people actively engaging in social media, you need to develop an effective social media guideline for yourself and others who might manage your online reputation like a Virtual Assistant (VA), independent contractor or employee.
Creating an effective set of social media conduct guidelines demands the following:
- that you are attuned to users
- that you identify and resolve conflicting needs
- that you stay open-minded
- that you become engaged with internal and external communities.
Social media and its impact can no longer be ignored by anyone. There are millions of online influences and tens of millions of people who are engaging on social media sites Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Best practices of a social media protocol continue to evolve but, there are some basic rules of engagement of good social media communications:
- mutual respect
Walking a blurry line.
You should ensure your strategy avoids the following:
- salesmanship in every exchange
- failure to transparently identify yourself as being associated with entity under discussion
- using phony identities to commend your products or rip the competitions’
- inflammatory, obscene and hate speech.
Likewise, be sure to include specific guidelines with the following in mind:
- Who are the people who authorized to release information on your behalf, and what kind of information are they allowed to release (virtual assistant, executive assistant, business partner, clients etc.)
- What is the process for responding to legitimate or any other kind of online criticisms of you, your company or its products?
- What is your plan to survive any social media crisis?
- How can others on your team engage in the conversation as people without impacting our reputation?
- What guidance should you include for how people should conduct themselves on personal pages after (and, sometimes, during) business hours? Remember, when someone is identified with a particular company on a social network, they become one of the faces of that company, intentionally or otherwise.
When creating guidelines for Personal and Official Communication, consider the following:
- Social media is about freedom of expression, authenticity and creating communities.
- In social communities and on the web in general, we’re all our own brand.
- Consider maintaining separate Facebook friend lists. It is possible for users to create different lists of friends who see kinds of information on their profile.
- Assume that all social media communication is permanent and retrievable.
One of the most important components of any Social Media Rules of Engagement strategy, is the fact that as the internet and social media evolves, so should your strategy and guideline. It is therefore critical that your strategy includes a regular review, (no longer than 3 months) to ensure you update/add/change etc. in step with the evolution.
To sum it all up, here are some basic Social Media Guidelines:
- Social networking sites are public. Your messages on the social web can be read by anyone. You are searchable and what you say can spread and stays online forever. Use common sense.
- When you identify yourself, be professional. If you choose to include your company in your bio or profile on a social site, conduct yourself professionally there. Be transparent and identify yourself clearly as an employee/owner of any business-related discussions.
- Share your personality. Be yourself and feel free to say what is on your mind, but do so respectfully. Connect with colleagues and engage with the public relations community. Provide value, share content, ask questions, and take part in industry conversations.
- Be cordial. Don’t vent, bash or poke fun at people, businesses, companies, brands, competitors, or geographical locations. Do feel free to ask questions and share your opinion in a respectful way. Think before posting and when in doubt, don’t hit “Send.” Ask yourself: Will this message offend anyone, especially a client or potential client?
- Don’t sell sell sell. Social networks are great places to identify point-of-need opportunities and generate sales leads, but they are not venues for your sales pitch.
- Pay attention to competitors. Watch them quietly and never harass them. Follow them, but do not republish their messages. Always view bios or profiles before engaging.
- Respond to mistakes quickly and without being defensive. If you make an error, be up front about your mistake and correct it quickly.
- Protect confidential and proprietary information. Social computing blurs many of the traditional boundaries between internal and external communications. Be mindful of the difference.
- Don’t forget your revenue generating venture. Make sure that your online activities do not interfere with your business.