Create Social Media Guidelines to Reach Your
By Daniel Burrus
The new frontier of Web 2.0 is not just about
informing your customers; it’s about communicating with them. Today’s Web
2.0 tools, such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and the many other
social media options, are all about customer engagement.
When you send your prospects or clients an email, a mailer, or a newsletter,
or when you place a TV, radio, or print ad, you’re informing your readers
about something. Those are information age tools that still have a purpose.
However, social media is about the communication age. You’re attempting to
creating a dialogue, trying to get engagement, and hoping to elicit a
response. So it’s not just about talking; it’s about listening. Ultimately,
social media is not about the media. It’s about the social – about trying to
get people talking about something important to them and to your business.
What’s Your Focus?
In order to make the best business use of social media, your organization
needs to pinpoint the specific message you want to put out so that all
employees have a guide to follow – so they know what direction their
messages should take and how they should focus their posts. In other words,
is your company’s focus to increase customer service? To enhance awareness
of your products or services? To boost your brand recognition? Each of these
things would have a different consistent message for your employees to focus
For example, one insurance company uses Twitter and Facebook to let people
know all the philanthropic things they are doing for the community. All the
posts are about events they’re sponsoring and contributions they’re making.
Employees know that they should post information about personal things
they’re doing for the community, such as volunteering at the local animal
shelter or helping out with Habitat for Humanity. With a clear guideline
that the social media effort is to increase philanthropic awareness, it’s
easy for employees to know the kinds of things they should be doing on
social media sites. They have a clear focus and a unified purpose.
Another company in the retail industry uses social media to improve customer
service. All their posts highlight things they’re doing internally to
improve the customer experience, what they’re doing online to make shopping
easier, and how they’re handling phone inquiries to deliver a memorable
shopping experience. They also regularly ask customers how they’d like the
company to improve customer service. With that as the key message, all the
company’s employees are focused on problem solving and on making the
Therefore, a good social media strategy and employee guidelines are far more
than a list of good and bad words or topics. Instead, they need to focus on
the core message your company wants to portray and then determine the best
ways to spread that core message. That’s why upper management needs to take
the time to determine the core message and share it with all employees.
Creating the Guidelines
Creating social media guidelines for your company does not have to be
difficult. Once you get clear on the core message you want to send out and
the dialogue you want them to engage with, use the following tips to create
guidelines that your staff can use to shape their posts around the strategy.
(Note: the following suggestions are general in nature. Please adhere to
your state’s HR laws and seek legal counsel as needed.)
· Build trust. Your employees should use their posts to build a
reputation of trust among clients, media, and the public. When they are
reaching out to others on social media sites, they should take every
opportunity to build a reputation of trust and to establish themselves as a
credible and transparent representative of the company.
· Transparency. When participating in any online community, your
employees should disclose their identity and affiliation with the
organization, clients, and professional and/or personal interest. When
posting to a blog, they should always use their real name, not an alias.
· Be direct. When creating posts and content, your employees should
be direct, informative, and brief. They should never use a client’s name in
a posting unless they have written permission to do so.
· Give due credit. If your employees post copyrighted materials, they
should identify the original source. This includes sources for direct or
paraphrased quotes, photos, videos, and anything else they did not
· Self-edit. Your employees should always evaluate their posting’s
accuracy and truthfulness. Before posting any online material, they need to
ensure that the material is accurate, truthful, and without factual error.
This includes doing a spell and grammar check on everything. Remember,
content never disappears entirely once it’s been posted. Should your
employees find an error, have them correct it promptly. Since transparency
is key, have them admit the mistake, apologize if necessary, correct it, and
then and move on.
· Responsibility. Make sure employees know that they are responsible
for what they post. Negative or questionable posts will not be tolerated.
Additionally, while what they do on their own personal pages during personal
time is their business, what they publish on those sites should not be
attributed to the company and should not appear as endorsements from the
company. If they choose to list their employer on a personal social network,
then they must regard all communication on that network as they would in a
professional network. Online lives are ultimately linked.
· Be professional. When posting comments, employees should refrain
from writing about controversial or potentially inflammatory subjects,
including politics, sex, religion or any other non-business related
subjects. The tone of their comments should be respectful and informative,
never condescending or “loud.” Additionally, they should avoid personal
attacks, online fights, and hostile communications. If a blogger or any
other online influencer posts a statement with which your company disagrees,
your employees can voice their opinion, but not escalate the conversation to
a heated argument. Instruct them on how to write reasonably, factually, and
with good humor.
· Privacy. Employees should never disclose proprietary or
confidential information. This includes product releases, service updates,
and employee information not made public yet.
· Obey the rules. All employees should follow local, state, or
federal laws and regulations; the company’s internal rules (typically found
in the employee handbook); as well as the rules established by each social
networking venue. Ultimately their online activities will be a reflection on
Propel Your Message Forward
Today’s Web 2.0 tools are great for business building, provided that your
employees know how to use them for the company’s ultimate benefit.
Therefore, determine why your company is using social media sites, and then
let that purpose be known throughout the entire organization. Additionally,
implement clear social media guidelines that employees can follow, and
you’ll have the people, processes, and tools you need to further your
company’s mission. Ultimately, when employees know how they are supposed to
use today’s Web 2.0 tools, they can do so with focus and purpose, leading
the organization confidently into the communication age.
About the Author:
Dan Burrus is considered one of the world’s leading technology forecasters
and strategists. He is the founder and CEO of Burrus Research, a research
and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven
trends to help clients better understand how technological, social and
business forces are converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities.
Dan has developed the first cell phone business application that allows the
user to generate a business plan; the "Competitive Advantage Business
Strategy Builder." For more information, please visit: