Since the beginning of corporate social media, many companies
have realised there's a lot more to effective online reputation
management than just posting a tweet or two from the corporate
Twitter profile. Yes, that's still important - but the challenge
that many organisations, of all shapes and sizes, face is bigger
and more complex than that.
So what is the tough question many companies are trying to
Well, it's about how to encourage employees, who probably tweet,
post and share things online already, to use social networks in a
way that is helpful to an overall business strategy - rather than
causing a social media faux pas.
Setting the context
Mobile devices make the firewall
Employees and other corporate stakeholders are more empowered than
ever to make their opinions known to the world, thanks to the mass
of digital tools at our fingertips. Managing your corporate
reputation in this digital era has never been so complicated, with
many companies playing catch up, as they learn the new rules of the
Social media is forcing companies to open up to dialogue and
become more transparent. Everyone wants to be seen as progressive
in their social media approach, but when most social networks are
blocked by the corporate firewall, the internal reality tends to be
pretty different from the image projected externally.
Three reasons are often put forward for why we have corporate
firewalls: bandwidth, productivity and security. While bandwidth
concerns about allowing websites like YouTube may be valid, when it
comes to productivity and security, things are less
straightforward. Thanks to the digital devices and tools in our
pockets, getting past firewalls at work is easy (3G anyone?) so the
internal ban on social networks just doesn't work and people are
sharing thoughts constantly.
To make matters more difficult, employees adopt multiple
identities online and the boundaries between what's personal and
what's professional are increasingly blurred. This in turn blurs
the line between who is and who isn't an official company
Social media policies are just the first
A corporate company's first instinct to manage the situation is to
impose a firewall and cover all the bases with the legal team. Thus
creating social media policies about using digital channels has
become the norm over the past couple years.
While having a policy is essential, it still isn't guaranteed
that employees will understand any more clearly how you want them
to use social media. In fact, the chances are that your current
social media policy acts more as a deterrent, rather than providing
easy to understand guidelines.
Our top ten tips for effectively communicating your
Responding to the need to widely and succinctly communicate
social media policy, we have seen a growing trend for companies to
invest in more creative internal communications.
Companies across the spectrum are launching education-style
campaigns to bring policies and guidelines to life in new and
engaging ways. We've been involved in helping a number of companies
on their journey: here are ten key things we've learnt along the
1. Create straightforward social media
A social media policy on its own is not enough. The key is to turn
the legal document into engaging and easy to understand guidelines
that make sense to everyone, regardless of social media knowledge
or experience levels.
2. Make it practical
Ground your instructions in everyday situations that people can
actually relate to. Use straightforward, jargon-free language and
demonstrate what you mean through practical examples.
3. Set the right expectations
Do you want for your employees to talk about you and your brand
online - or do you favour a more cautious approach? This will
depend on what sector you work in and your type of business - both
have a big impact on your campaign messaging.
4. Have a grown up conversation
It's easy to fall into the trap of being overly moralistic. Don't
lecture your employees; encourage them to make up their own minds
on what's good or bad, with some subtle guidance. Treat employees
as peers, making sure that messaging is adult-to-adult, rather than
parent-to-child in tone. Social media is all about peer-to-peer
communication, so be equal with your audience.
5 Show that you trust your
Beware of coming across as a scary Big Brother who is constantly
watching. Instead, try to encourage the sort of productive and
responsible behaviour online that you generally speaking expect
from your employees anyway.
6. Make it relevant
Avoid talking too much about social media in general terms. It's
easy to go to great lengths explaining what social media is and why
it matters. What's important is why social media matters to your
business; how it plays a part in your employees' working lives and
how they can make the best use of it. So remove the faceless social
media statistics and get to the point quicker; otherwise you risk
losing your audiences.
7. Get the narrative right and apply it
Once you know your key messages, it's time to work on your
narrative. It's great to turn these messages into a cohesive story
- stories are very engaging for audiences. Once you have the
narrative right, apply it consistently across your campaign
8. Maximise messages with moving
Using animation or any other moving image approach really brings
your social media guidelines to life, but make sure you use it in
the right way. Remember, it's less about information and more about
inspiration. Keep it short; tell a clean story and treat the film
like an advertisement for the available guidelines and resources,
rather than a movie epic.
9. Create a destination on your
Make your social media policy, guidelines and supporting resources
easily accessible. Create a destination on your intranet and use
the campaign to drive traffic there. Some companies go the extra
mile by developing bespoke social media hubs, where employees can
share tips and best practice, while getting the advice they
10. Do something different
Internal communications doesn't have to be the poor cousin of
external communications. Why not try something a bit different the
next time you want to engage your employees in strategy and policy?
Communicating your social media policy in a more creative way is a
great place to start.