With more and more companies flocking to Twitter, Facebook and the rest, brands that want to take social media seriously and start getting wider internal involvement should consider putting together some social media guidelines. 

This will ensure you get the most out of your social media efforts by giving employees the freedom to really get stuck in.

GuideThe use of the word ‘guidelines’ is apt for this sort of document. By definition, social media isn’t something that works well with strict rules and regulations.

However, it would be foolish for a company with responsibilities to investors, a board or even a stock market, to take an ‘anything goes’ approach to social media. This corporate protection element is important.

So guidelines should be put in place to protect the company, but also to nurture involvement. For many companies, especially if the driver for social media adoption has been top-down, getting grass-roots participation can be a challenge.

Guidelines, if put together correctly can give internal stakeholders the confidence they need to take up the social baton and run with it.

Where do I start?

Here are a series of steps and considerations that any company or marketing department should consider when putting together social media guidelines.
These won’t just ensure you end up with a set of guidelines that tick all the boxes from a legal and compliance standpoint, but will ensure that whatever you put in place has buy-in from the very people you hope to get involved.

  1. Seek inspiration. You don’t need to start with a blank piece of paper. There are lots of great examples of social media guidelines out there. Read through some of them, take the bits you like and discard the bits that aren’t relevant. It’s a great way to start getting the inspiration flowing.
  2. Get feedback from everyone and anyone. Internal involvement is obviously crucial, but why not ask for external input too. Ask your partners or suppliers to take a look and, if you’re really feeling plucky, you could even blog about your guidelines or post them on a Wiki for input from the wider community.
  3. Be organic and flexible, and don’t think of the creation of social media guidelines as a one-time exercise with a set start and end point. This should be a flexible document that changes and adapts over time. During the initial drafting period, encourage as many people as possible to review and amend them so that you have a fully collaborative approach.
  4. Write them in plain English. There is nothing worse that a long document with complicated and confusing terminology, especially when it comes to social media. Keep your guidelines short and to the point, with bullet points galore! Why not consider writing them in a series of 140 character statements.
  5. Beta test them. Do you have a team of people that are already involved in social media outreach? Why not give them an early draft to try them out for a few weeks. They’ll likely find that some of the points aren’t relevant and may even think up something else to add in. Running brainstorming sessions is another great way to get feedback.
  6. Summarise. If you end up with a lot of points that you feel are all valid, consider summarising the whole document with a couple of key statements at the beginning. If your social media activists don’t get around to reading and digesting the whole document, then hopefully they’ll take these key nuggets on board.
  7. Rinse, wash, repeat. Don’t expect to get a set of guidelines that can then be written in stone and forgotten about. This is fast paced channel and things are always changing. Save the guidelines in a central, easily accessible location so that they can be easily amended and updated.

Photo credit:
jurveston via Flickr.