Agency + Industry / social-media

The Only Two Reasons You Need a Social Media Policy

There are really only two reasons why you need a social media policy, no matter what anyone tells you. It may sound crazy, but after reading this you just might agree. Plus, I am going to save you from reading another cliche top ten list. Before we get to the list, I’d like to share a perfect example with you to support why there are only two reasons for a social media policy.

The Washington Post recently silenced its reporters from engaging on Post-branded Twitter accounts or responding on behalf of the newspaper with personal accounts. Why? Here’s the short version – a recent controversial article on homosexuality was published on the Post’s website, it was then criticized by gay activist group GLAAD which was later rebuttaled by a reporter at the Post under the Post’s Twitter account.

So what’s the problem?

There are a few here. First, no one individual should log into the Post’s Twitter account and respond with their personal views on behalf of the company. Are they an authorized spokesperson? If not, then they have no right doing so.

Secondly, a media outlet should remain unbiased and not take any sides with an issue. If they chose to, then that’s for the editorial page arena.

The third problem is I don’t see any mention in the article of a social media policy. I am going to assume that there is one. However, based on the language of the memo, there doesn’t seem to be one. Not good!

The Mashable story goes into greater detail about it all, which you can read here, but the point I think everyone is missing is the importance of a social media policy and why any company needs one. People, brands, companies and the like are in a rush to take the plunge into the social media world, but they often do it without a plan, strategy, set of objectives, and most important of all, a policy. Companies have all sorts of policies, including a media policy, work policy, vacation policy, sick time policy and so forth. It would only make sense to have a social media policy.

Here are the top two most important reasons why your company – and the Washington Post – should have a social media policy in place:

1. Eliminates confusion. A social media policy makes things clear, sets the standard and ensures consistency. Such as the case here with the Washington Post, their social media policy should clearly define who is authorized to act/speak on behalf of the company in the social media world.

2. Protects the brand. It’s a good idea to have your legal team review your social media policy. In some cases, even though an employee may share their personal views via the company Twitter account, more often than not it’s the company who is ultimately responsible – not the employee. Having a clearly defined policy will help avoid these kind of situations.

Now ask yourself this. Does your company have a social media policy? If so, feel free to share some insight and tips here. We’d love to hear them!

Derek Beere is a Brand Supervisor at Mason, Inc. Get in touch and follow along @derekbeere.