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Why Entrepreneurs Need a Social Media Policy

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Despite the prevalence of social media in our everyday lives, most companies and small business still do not have a social media policy. Why? Well, those that don’t have not encountered a social media problem yet.

In one of over 40 presentations, panel discussions and workshops at the second annual Social Media Technology Conference and Workshop at Howard University, Brittney Block of the University of Memphis presented research on how businesses can create their own social media policy. Today is the second day of the conference, where social media experts and scholars from across the United States and five foreign countries have been presenting their research, best practices and ideas on the technical, ethical, economic, legal, political, personal safety, global, and cultural implications of social media technology.

Whether you have been an entrepreneur for five years or are planning to launch your business in five months, it is crucial that you institute a social media policy to ensure that your company has a presence in the digital world. But having a social media policy is more than just having a profile on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, etc. It is about having a strategy for how social media will be used to represent the company, and having guidelines to let employees know what is and isn’t acceptable when using social media on behalf of the company. As you institute your company’s social media policy, keep in mind that there is no one size fits all approach. Since social media is constantly evolving, understand that your social media policy needs to be flexible and revised on a consistent basis.

Here are the six overall concepts that Block recommends for building your company’s social media policy:

  1. Strategy—Plan to achieve a specific goal. This creates a clear and definitive purpose.
  2. Company culture—The company’s visions, values and practices that are shared by all employees. The culture is created internally and then projected externally through social media.
  3. Unified voice vs. multiple voices—A unified voice is one person who owns the company’s social media pages. Multiple voices allow for employees to contribute to the company’s online presence. The drawback to having a unified voice is that this may make employees feel less valued, whereas having multiple voices equates to more legal risks.
  4. Monitoring—This involves monitoring the company’s social media profiles and employee usage.
  5. Business use vs. personal use—Employees should always indicate that his or her opinions are his or her own, not the company’s. Business pages should be free of personal conversation, but a grey area does exist so the company’s social media policy should be flexible.
  6. Legalities—As fun and effective as social media can be, there are still some legalities involved such as copyright infringement, compliance problems, employment discrimination/harassment, freedom of speech, employees’ legal rights, and more.

Block summarized her presentation with this final thought: you need a social media policy; know the risks; create one a social media policy that fits your company; incorporate the aforementioned building blocks; and be flexible because your social media policy will change over time.

This post is courtesy Brittany Hutson. She is a writer for CEO Blog Nation. 

Image credit: HR Examiner

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