Perhaps it is taken for granted, but Esteban Kolsky's recent article on The SCRM Roadmap, is missing the requirement for a Social Media Participation Policy for employees. No matter where you are on his SCRM pyramid such a policy is vital. The first thing it does is give an employee permission to use their own initiative and participate in customer conversations.
There are few better experts on your products or services than your employees. Apple Inc. makes a point of highlighting these Geniuses and puts them to work in customer facing roles. With the advent of Social Networking, your experts do not need to have such a specific role, but can still be recognised for their contribution in making their company great.
Permission to talk
Your company doesn't really have to have more of a strategy than permission to get started on becoming a social business. Moreover, a simple, publicly available guideline affords employees some protection from pressure to discuss or comment on topics that are not appropriate.
It can be made clear that while all company employees are welcome to participate in Social Media, it is expected that all who participates in online commentary understand and follow some simple but important guidelines. This really is irrespective of medium (video, blogs, twitter, etc) and could also be applied to more traditional communication mediums such as the press. However, I'll stick to the internet based communication channels for now. These rules might sound strict and contain a bit of legal-sounding jargon. Some of the rules may be intuitive and considered basic common sense. However, please keep in mind that the overall goal is simple: to participate online in a respectful, relevant way that protects the company's reputation.
A great list of sample policies from existing organisations, some of which are written with industry specific rules, is available at Social Media Governance. It is well worth a read. The following is a guide highlighting some of the dos and don’ts covered in most of these policies.
- Protect confidential information.
- Respect copyrights.
- Be credible, transparent and identify yourself as an employee.
- Be in a position to offer comment from a point of clear knowledge of the subject matter.
- Avoid jargon by writing in simple terms.
- Use caution. While not all company employees are official spokespeople, please use caution in your comments as reporters and analysts may report on anything included in your online postings. Also, once online, the comments are cached, distributed quickly and available effectively forever.
- Secure approval. If you are an official spokesperson for the company, you must submit each posting to for review / approval before posting. If you are not a spokesperson, you will need to check with the company to determine if your blog and postings need to be approved.
- Make it clear that your views are your own and do not necessarily reflect the views of your employer.
- Comment on merger and acquisition activity.
- Discuss future product offerings, including upgrades, or new releases.
- Make growth predictions of any kind.
- Break out revenue by specific product or country.
- Use any inflammatory language or discredit others’ views.
- Provide headcount numbers for any country, region, group or department.
- Discuss customers that are not currently referenceable to the press.
- Provide the number of customers for a specific product area.
- Speak for the company.