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How to Write a Social Media Policy for Your Business

A pink file saying 'Policies'

The trouble with social media is that everyone reckons they can do it. It’s just writing a sentence and clicking post, right? I wish that were true.

Good social media is many things but when it comes to social media for your business, one of the most important of those things is safe. Not boring; safe.

Every business needs a social media policy to make sure things don’t go wrong in this terrifyingly public arena.

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How to plan your social media policy

1. Who is authorised to post from our social media?

This is a game of two parts: those who are authorised and those who have the login. Because guess what – the director of your business could of course decide she’s going to post something today if she wanted. But keeping the login to just one or two people whose job is actually is can avoid a lot of problems.

We want to maintain a consistent one of voice across our social media platforms. Too many people posting is the death of consistency and the lifeblood of screw-ups, so keep it small.

The other potential side of authorisation may be regulatory. If your industry has rules about how you promote your products – health, finances, legal services – you need the people handling your social media to be approved within the business as cognisant of any regulations.

2. What kind of content needs approval before it’s shared publicly?

Social media should feel organic and human – but often that takes serious planning. If you need legal signoff or even just fussy stakeholder signoff, that needs to be documented.

Generally, large campaigns and paid advertising campaigns should have some kind of signoff within the business as a safeguard.

Examples of approved content:

  • Planned content – content calendar
  • Social campaigns
  • Social media ads
  • Any promotions involving product promises, prices or offers

It’s also a good idea to retain and supervise all communication on your social platforms using a social media archiving tool. If you’re audited – which can happen if your industry is regulated – you may be expected to provide an archive of all your social platforms.

3. How is social media content approved?

This depends on how much freedom the writer is but it’s always a good idea to have a second pair or eyes on content. In some industries, there actually NEEDS to be an official signoff who takes responsibility for its accuracy, fairness to consumers and so on.

Example content approval process:

  • Content is drafted by the social media manager
  • Content is proofed by the marketing manager
  • Content is approved by compliance

For your sake, I hope there’s only one level of approval for your content!

4. What we’ll never post on social

It’s vital to have this in writing. There will always be topics your business shouldn’t touch with a barge-pole. Some are about keeping business issues inside the business and some are just inappropriate for your industry.

Examples of topics we won’t touch:

  • Financial results
  • Products in development
  • Unconfirmed partnerships
  • Customer details – unless explicit consent has been obtained (for example, a competition winner’s name and age)
  • Politics

If you’re a small business with a major interest in, say, how Brexit affects your trade partnerships…of course you may want to have a voice in that debate. What you will and won’t talk about is an entirely individual choice for your brand.

5. How this social media policy is carried out

As a team, we need to have a flowchart for signing off content. Only after each step has been ticked off can content go live.

Draft – writer

  • Does it require any sources?
  • Does it require terms, like for a competition?
  • Does it require a caveat, like for a product promotion?
  • Will it be compliant in all formats (social, in particular, will often truncate content)?

Proof – signoff one

This person is the sense-checker. They need to make sure it reads well, doesn’t flout any industry regulations and has all its sources if required.

  • Read copy
  • Check against guidelines
  • Check sources/terms/caveats
  • Give feedback
  • Approve second draft

Approve – final signoff

This person may be the same as the first signoff – it depends on the size and culture of your business. The only reason it would even go this far is if your industry has regulations on promotions. For example, financial services has Financial Conduct Authority regulations to adhere to.

  • Read copy
  • Check guidelines
  • Check sources/terms/caveats
  • Check against current business activities
  • Give feedback
  • Approve final version

6. Damage control

If something goes wrong – which happens, in a fast-paced creative environment – we also have a process for putting the problem right. That’s when a social media policy really earns its crust.

When panic threatens to set in, refer to the social media policy.

Small issue

  • Screenshot the mistake, including time and any engagement
  • Delete if possible – sometimes, a mistake may be worth putting up with the content’s had engagement
  • Record
  • Monitor situation for escalation

Customer issue

When it’s kicking off, basically. It’s often tempting to react immediately but it’s never worth making the issue worse.

A scorching customer complaint requires a balance of speedy action and measured response. And while it’s also tempting to keep it quiet, I’ve found from vast experience that it’s NEVER better to keep it to yourself.

  • Screenshot the issue, including time and any engagement
  • Share the issue with the brand manager
  • Discuss ways to handle the situation
  • Monitor closely
  • Escalate if necessary

Business issue

Something that could cause damage to the business’s reputation. You never want to handle this on your own – not because you’re not capable but because it’s bigger than you.

Getting the opinion of someone who has a far-reaching view of the business, its place in the market and potential fallout is incredibly important.

  • Share the screenshot, time, engagement, current status and potential implications with the marketing manager/CEO/whoever
  • Discuss ways to handle the situation
  • Monitor closely

Why your social media policy matters

Social media of any kind is public, live and often unretractable. In the age of cancel culture and screenshotting EVERYTHING, a social media policy gives you calm, considered steps to follow to avoid disaster.

It keeps your business’s reputations safe, reassures stakeholders that social media is safe and, most importantly, makes you feel safe in your everyday work on social media.

Social safety isn’t sexy: it’s vital.

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