Thursday, 7 April 2011

Why does a company need a social media policy? It's the law!


I’ve been working on a social media policy for my place of work. Although I won’t reveal which company it is, rest assured it’s raised a few questions in my mind, and crystalized a few points in my head.

There is a lot of talk at the moment of social media and it’s relation to law in this country. We all know how social media can effectively circumvent traditional company, press and legal guidelines. If you are influential enough, you can publish a story on a social platform and get it shared. Twitter gives you access to a public platform that can be a curse and a blessing, depending on how you approach it.

For every councilor getting fined, there are thousands of representatives on public social sites using them to their best and fullest extent.

But that doesn’t mean that you don’t need a policy and legal documentation in place.

In fact, I’d go as far to say that if your company doesn’t have a social media policy, you need to GET ONE NOW, STUPID!

This is not a case me flip-flopping, and this should never be used as an excuse to squash internal and external debate on issues relating to your company. As long as you are responding to any issues in a timely matter, content on a social site is not a major area for litigation.

It just makes sense if you don’t want to get sued.

BBC Radio Manchester recently had an issue where their Twitter account was accidently used to send a personal Tweet about the person in question being stuck on a plane next to some drunk scousers. That caused a lot of red faces at the Beeb, who promptly sent an apology and have decided to privately reprimand the person in question. Completely fair. Any disciplinary action should be kept internal, and should not be blasted out into the public arena before due diligence, accountability and action is taken. If at all.

Maybe some journalists should be doing the same, but that’s just me getting on my soapbox, and if public interest applies (something that was published on a public platform from a trusted source should be taken as public by default), then we have a right to know.

AS a company, you need to know in black and white what you can and cannot say on social platforms legally, and everybody at the company needs to be aware of this.

Sadly, Zappos and their mission statement of ‘being real, and using your best judgement’ don’t stand up now that the digital legal eagles are circling Twitter.

We know that our perceptions of brands are influenced by what we see and read. If you want your company and it’s representatives to keep publishing shit-hot content, GET YOURSELF COVERED, and get a policy in place, and educate your staff. Take time to train them to be more effective. Socially savvy people are hiding in your company, and training will unearth some real stars that can help shape the open future of your ourbound communications. The cost to you and your company may far outweigh any potential compensation pay outs if you have offended or defamed an innocent party on a social media site.

What do you think? Have I got a point, or am I just talking a load of chuff?