Every business should have a social media policy – or at least social media guidelines – in place. I’ve seen way too many small businesses damage their credibility when employees:
- Post internal company “news-that-should-not-be-public” news – firings, workplace drama, whining about customers, or complaining about management.
- Respond negatively to criticisms or complaints. Some companies have been able to create positive spin, like this Restaurant Owner responding to a negative Yelp review, However, responding when emotions are high is in general a bad idea. If you want to see an epic fail, Amy’s Bakery Facebook Meltdown is a sober reminder of what can happen when tempers flare online.
- Pretend to be anonymous. People can tell when you are biased. Be forthcoming about your relationships to the company. Are you an affiliate? An employee? The owner?
- Take a controversial stance - or just be a jerk online. In a small business, and especially in a solopreneurship, personality and brand are closely aligned. Be aware that sharing strong religious or political opinions can have negative repercussions on your business. See my prior blog post on defining your own personal and professional balance when using social media marketing.
How to Create Your Small Business Social Media Guidelines
My recommendation is that your social media guidelines start with these 5 simple principles, and you can grow from there.
- Be honest about who you are. Disclose your affiliation with your employer if you are in a company / competitor related discussion. Don’t post anonymously.
- Your actions reflect on the company. You may be speaking for yourself, but please maintain awareness that the things you say and do online may have an impact on the company overall.
- Ask permission. Respect confidentiality. Ask for people’s permission before posting their picture.
- Be polite. Maintain your cool. If a customer says something that’s upsetting, don’t respond until you are calm. Don’t bash competitors online. If things get heated, walk away from the conversation. Ask for help if needed.
- Be aware. Remember that everything that goes on the internet can go anywhere and everywhere.
What would you add to this list? Any other epic failures you've seen lately?