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Your company is cooking with gas in the social space.  You have 50,000 Likes on Facebook and 10,000 followers on Twitter.  You are engaging your customers in the social space, and many of your Likes and followers seem so interested in the content of your posts, they come back to comment on your page on a regular basis.  Yes, it appears that you may now sit back and relax as life on the social front is going unbelievably well.

That is until one of your employees publicly ridicules your company’s mandatory attendance policy for what he calls another “stupid and pointless” team building event.  When this comment is retweeted on Twitter, it makes your customers wonder – why should I invest in this company’s product if its employees can’t even be loyal supporters?

What do you do?

We advise our social marketing clients to think about this exposure before engaging in the social media space, or if they are already engaged, as soon as possible.  We recommend doing this by creating a very clear and concise social media policy for distribution to each employee, so that you may set clear expectations about how they are to conduct themselves in social media.

Consider these questions when creating your policy:

What is your stance on having your employees use social media for your benefit?

As a social marketing company, we expect our employees to participate in the social media space.  And when they do, we expect them to regard our brand highly and to be good ambassadors for it.  What is the tone and tenor for your company?  If you are not tasking your employees with sharing content about your company, you are missing an opportunity to engage their friends in the social space.

What is your company’s definition of social media?

We believe the definition of social media includes any social networking site, tool for social marketing and content posted in social media.  This includes content and videos.  What is your definition of social media?  It certainly wouldn’t be ok for your employee to post a risqué video on your corporate page, but would it be ok for them to post it on their Facebook page, even though that page is also used to mention your new product information?  Answer this question ahead of time and before you get a glimpse of something you don’t want to see!

Who owns your social pages?

In many companies, an employee in marketing or in social media strategy will be the person who is responsible for the quality of posts shared on your pages.  In many cases there is also a dotted line to your HR Team.  It is important to designate someone who also owns the reputation management of the pages so that they may respond appropriately and quickly to a disgruntled customer who does not think so highly of your product, or an employee who has gone rogue on one of your pages.

Will you allow the sharing of confidential or proprietary information?

Your company’s employee handbook should define the meaning of confidential or proprietary information for your employees.  It is likely, in fact, that your employees signed a confidentiality agreement on the date of their hire.  Be sure to underscore these confidentiality rules in your social media policy.  If your employees aren’t allowed to call your local news reporter to tell them that your company is experiencing layoffs, they should not be allowed to tell the world on Facebook either.

What are your rules of engagement?

Consider your company’s desired role in the social space.  Will you be a leader?  Will your aim of creating excitement around your product shine through?  Will you establish your company as an expert in the space and draw on topics that are familiar to you in order to build your level of expertise?  How will you keep the conversation going on your Facebook page?  These are all questions that your company should consider making an official mandate as you dive in.

How will you monitor?

A social media policy will only be of use to you if it is enforced.  However, how will you monitor what is being said about your company?  There are many monitoring tools you may use for this purpose.  We recommend three: Hoot Suite and Seesmic (both of which help you manage your social pages), and Social Mention.  In addition to using Social Mention to find out what people are saying about you on Twitter you may also find mentions of your blogs on other sites.  And be sure to let your employees know that you will be using monitoring sites, so that they aren’t surprised when their comments are found and evaluated for their appropriateness.

When and how will you make training available?

The majority of your employees may be on Facebook, but some of them may not have Twitter accounts.  In order to ensure best practices for your company, you may want to show them how to set up their accounts directly or to incorporate a background on their Twitter wall that is representative of the company they work for.  In addition to teaching them corporate culture behind using the tool, teach best practices for using it through a one time or ongoing seminar.  Showing them your support as they attempt to accomplish your initiatives will go a long way in making sure that those initiatives actually get done!

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We created SocialToaster as a social marketing tool to help significantly increase the traffic to your website by using electronic word-of-mouth referrals.  SocialToaster can be up to ten times more effective than search engine marketing or other traditional forms of digital advertising.  Our automated solution takes the time and guess work out of structuring your social media marketing campaign.  The above blog is based on some of our social media consulting fundamentals that we offer our clients in tandem with SocialToaster.  For more information, sign up for a webinar, or contact a salesperson to learn more today.