Social Media – Best Practice Social Media Policy

This was first posted in 2010. Starbucks are still global coffee shop of choice and divide opinion in much the same way as political allegiance, ‘leave or remain’ and the debate over whether Wonder Woman is really a feminist icon and, if she is, why does she go into battle wearing wedges? And yes, I know the answer, which is ‘because she can and because she wants to’. And who’s arguing with a god?

The Coca-Cola Company are still displaying the document that I found so praiseworthy and, revisiting it, I still find it so.

Two firsts in one week – Starbucks display best practice in reinventing themselves through employee and customer care (yes, I know, I had difficulty as well) and now this.

Yes, your eyes do not deceive you. It is a document entitled ‘Online Social Media Principles’ from The Coca-Cola Company, and it is – dear blog snorkellers mine – as near to a best practice social media policy as you can get.

OK, it’s not quite draconian enough for me – I’d like to see a list of cruel and unusual punishments for those found to be in breach of the policy, but – hey – you can’t have everything.

What I particularly like about it, however, is that it’s not all evangelical. It doesn’t start from the position that social media is the biggest thing since the Bible, and that it is going to transform the world as we know it and everything in it. It is sensible, and considered, and everything I would not necessarily have expected, rightly or wrongly,  from Messrs Coca and Cola.

It also – beautifully – can be easily adapted and plagiarised. These guidelines could be applied to any business or organisation – go ahead, fill your boots. It’s also, as I’ve recommended on this blog before, something of an ’employee benefit’ – in that it advises employees on how to use social media in their personal lives as well as on company time. It demonstrates a duty of care – without ramming it down their throats.

Finally – another big thing of mine – it would sit very nicely in a crisis management plan, and provides a good basis on which to build the social media section of that plan.

It is genuinely brilliant. I’m lovin’ it.

(Oh – hold on……..)

Social Media – Social Media Policies in Practice

Came across this on Mashable – it’s a story about this, which is social media policy devised and published by Australian company Telstra for the benefit of their 40,000 employees. To date, according to the company, 12,000 employees have been ‘trained’ or ‘educated’ in the ways of social media.

I’ve said,  in previous posts, that a good social media policy might actually be seen, or used, as an employee benefit – Telstra’s policy is exactly that. This is something that has, quite clearly, taken time, resource and investment to put together, and has been formulated to educate employees and provide them with a skill, or skills, which are applicable in their day-to-day lives as well as their work lives. I particularly like it because it doesn’t shy away from threatening disciplinary action should anyone contravene the policy.

What it doesn’t do, however – and it’s telling – is explain how employees can help the company through their social media activity. It doesn’t explain the company’s social media strategy. It might be said that it begs more questions than it answers. It strikes me as a guide to social media – all well and good – but not a social media lever. It’s about stopping people making inadvertent (or deliberate) mistakes – rather than ’embracing the social media opportunity and bringing everyone in to the conversation’ (as I imagine the cyber-hippies would have it).

This is not a sign that social media has become mainstream and infiltrated Big Corporate – rather it’s a sign that Big Corporate has recognised the damage that can be caused by social media and is attempting to mitigate its effects.

This is pre-emptive issues management, nothing more or less.

Social Media – Another Top Twits List

I am sooooo lazy. It makes me feel almost unbearably guilty. It is linked in to my innate shallowness. (Shallowance? Shallocity? Or is that a characteristic pertaining to a small onion?) Anyway, what it all means is that I simply cannot be bothered to re-invent this splendid (but metaphorical) wheel. It’s a post by communications and customer services blogger Rich Baker (nice blog Rich, keep up the good work, excellent content, opinion and thinking – worth a read, blog snorkellers mine) which gives the full listing of Klout founder @JoeFernandez’s Top Twitter Influencers in the United Kingdom.

(No. You don’t listen. I’m lazy. You will have to research Klout for yourself. And Joe Fernandez.)

Anyway, the point is the same as the point I attempted to make when I posted this – which was a similar list, posted by INQ Mobile.

The point – or, rather, the question, dear blog snorkellers – is this. Do you really, really want to live in a world which has, as its Top Influencers, the likes of Lily Allen, Chris Moyles, Duncan Bannantyne, Peter Andre and Dougie Poynter? I’ve nothing against them, but they’re hardly at the apogee of intellect, culture, education or morality, are they?

Sadly, it merely underlines the vapid, transient and shallow nature of Twitter, and the medium’s arrogant and misguided belief that it actually has an influence.

I read yesterday, elsewhere on the net, that Pepsi is spending/has spent $20m on social media marketing. Some wag had posted a comment which suggested that the company should have held on to its money, because it would probably be able to buy Twitter for that amount in the not-too-distant future. I have a suspicion this might be nearer to the truth than anyone thinks.

Crisis Management – The Idiot’s Guide To Creating A Plan 10

Key to crisis management and business continuity – and, clearly, enshrined in the crisis management plan that (if you’ve been following this series of occasional diatribes) you’re on the cusp of completing – is employee communication, for reasons which should (really) be obvious. In case they aren’t, here’s a taste.

Your employees are your greatest asset and your largest potential liability – if they’re on side, then you have a network of ambassador/evangelists, spreading your messages. If they’re not on side, mind, then you have an uncontrolled flow of misinformation, biased opinion and perhaps even vitriol

When disaster strikes, your employees need to hear from you – preferably before they hear from anyone else

In the case of a crisis, your employees will need to know what to do and where to go, and they’ll need to know quickly

Most importantly, in the crisis scenario, your employees will need to know what NOT to do and to be reminded what policies and rules they are governed by, as employees

These are just a few of the things you should be considering, and incorporating within your plan, and within the communication process around the finished plan. I’m certain you can think of others. (And if you can’t, then sit in a darkened room, or have an ideas shower, or go and see your boss, or whatever it takes for you to be able to think of others. Because there are some others.)

So, briefly – because I know you like brevity, dear blog snorkellers – here’s some of the mechanisms you need to have in place and a selection of the communications issues that you might need to consider. It’s not extensive or complete – I want you to think for yourselves.

  • Have you got an ‘employee hotline’ number? This is a dedicated telephone number that any number of employees can call at any point in time to get an update on their employer’s status. That update is, normally, something along the lines of ‘This is the XXXXX Corp Employee Hotline – at the present time, it is business as usual’. Obviously, it would be best to prepare a selection of messages that can be put on to the hotline as soon as something occurs. ‘This is the XXXX Corp Employee Hotline – an event has occurred at/near the XXX site. All employees should remain at home unless otherwise directed. Further details will be available at (time).” Or similar. You get the idea.
  • If you’ve only got a few – or a manageable number of – employees, do you know where they all live? Do you have their telephone numbers and personal email addresses?
  • Does your workforce have access to the company’s computer systems when they’re away from the office – if not, is it something they should have?
  • Do you have, or is it worth arranging, some kind of text message alert system for your employees?
  • What are you going to say to your people – there might be different messages dependent on who it is and what they do – those who may be indispensable in a crisis and those who can stay in bed.
  • Who’s going to take responsibility for employee communications and welfare (because it might not be you, the communicator) and how is the interface between internal and external communications going to be handled?
  • How are you going to remind people of your social media policy and how they should be behaving?

Bear in mind that these are just a few of the things that you should be thinking about, and that there will be more – and that they will change and develop as your crisis unfolds. The key point here is about scenario planning – preparing everything before hand so, when the time comes (as it inevitably will) you can act immediately. An ill-informed workforce left to their own devices and free to speculate are at least as potentially damaging as any crisis or issue that your organisation may be facing.

Crisis Management – The Idiot’s Guide To Creating A Plan 9

In this post – number 9 of a series, and, dear blog snorkellers, if you’ve missed the rest, you might want to read them just for context – we’re going to have a look at the role of social media in both creating and handling a crisis situation.

Before we go any further, by way of declaring my interests, I must say that I am not a fan of social media. I do not believe it is a valid (or valuable) communications/marketing tool. I believe there are still too many unknowns and thus it remains more of a threat than an opportunity. Those who are rushing headlong to embrace social media appear to have forgotten one key learning from traditional media. It can bite you. There is no reason to suppose that social media is not the same. As of yet, there is very little evidence of any business, brand or organisation actually getting a return on their investment in social media. On the other hand, there are plenty of examples of businesses, brands and organisations getting into trouble because of social media. All this being said, social media exists – no-one can or should ignore it. The best you can do is limit your corporate exposure to it, by controlling the part of it that you can control, which is your interaction with it.

Social media can create a crisis for you, or can propagate one when it happens to you. And it never takes time off – it’s on all the time.

Ill-advised comments or content posted to a social media site by your employees – eg Dominos Pizza in the US and the UK electrical retailer, Dixons Stores Group – can cause you problems, as can commentary from unhappy customers, or trading partners. Decisions you take as a business, marketing material you produce, changes to your product line-up – all these can spark off a backlash via social media. Because of social media – and the wider internet – everyone has a voice, a voice that is instant and has global reach.

And this voice can be equally active in the case of a crisis that’s not driven by social media. In the case of an incident at your premises, or an accident involving staff and/or customers, or a problem with your product, or a gaffe by a senior executive – these things will be posted to social media within minutes. Mobile device penetration by population in the UK is over 100% – some people have two or more, d’you see? – which means that there’s always someone with a camera and internet access.

In terms of dealing with social media in a crisis management plan, you’ll be glad to know it shouldn’t be that difficult. It’s simply a question of incorporating elements of your social media policy into the plan. (And if you haven’t got a social media policy, now is the time to get one.)

Policy – your policy should (amongst other things) outline how your organisation and your employees interact with social media, when you’re using company facilities and are on company time. It should also contain information and guidelines around social media usage ‘best practice’ – both in and out of work – which should be promoted as an employee benefit.(Helping you to protect yourself and not f*ck up!) Most importantly, there should be a clause which specifically deals with crisis situations, where employee posting to social media is expressly forbidden, on pain of dismissal. Some people will say I’m being too draconian – but this is the only way to ensure your employees are not tempted to ‘participate’ – even with the best of intentions.

Monitoring – you could outsource this to an expensive outfit of social/digital media gurus, who will blind you with science and then steal your wallet. On the other hand, you could save your money and – once a day – spend half an hour on Google, searching for a selection of key words pertaining to your business. These could include your brand names, your company name, the names of your external communications staff, and the names of your c-suite. This is, of course, not scientific, and stuff will slip through the net, but if the issue’s big enough, chances are you’ll see a mention of it. Once you’re on to an issue, it becomes easier to track down where its epicentre is.

Reaction – things move fast with social media and in the blogosphere. Your standard, pre-prepared response statements (neatly filed at the back of your crisis management folder) will not suffice here, however. They’re OK and they’ll work with journalists looking for an early response to a crisis situation, but social media is not staffed by journalists – it’s populated by individual members of the public, none of whom want to listen to a corporate message. What you’ll have to do is translate your reserve statements into social media speak – humble, to the point, on a level, using language that everyone will understand (jargon-free). Put your case, and if there’s something your company/organisation needs to do to set things right, then do it. As quickly as you can. On the other hand, if you’re being mistreated, say so, and seed that message as far as you possibly can. You may have to set up your own Facebook group or Twitter feed – make sure you know how to do it, and what the basic rules of engagement are. Make sure that instructions on how to do it, and the rules of engagement are in your crisis management folder for everyone to see. Remember that social media is not a sales tool, does not tolerate corporate bullsh*t and is the soul of brevity. Ensure there is only one message coming out of your camp.

This is only the beginning – you’re going to want to go away and think about this (oh yes you are) – and you’re also going to want to think about how you ensure your people know about what you’re doing in a crisis situation. Your people are your greatest asset and one of your greatest liabilities – I’ll deal with them next time.

Twitter – Are You Sure You Want To Be Involved? Certain?

Today, dearest blog snorkellers, more light is shed on the essentially trivial, vapid and meaningless nature of Twitter. For yesterday INQ Mobile – a purveyor of social media-friendly mobile devices to those with too much time and too little life – released its Twitterati List. This list – which you can find here, clickety-click – purports to rank the most influential celebrities using Twitter – not the most well-known, or those with the most followers, but the most influential. (No, I’m not sure how they did it. Stop asking silly questions.)

Pleasingly, because it saves a little effort, there is a UK and a US list. What it shows, I guess you could infer, is the level and depth of influence that Twitter has. Put another way, it gives an insight into the average Twitterist, if the average Twitterist is genuinely ‘influenced’ by the celebs on the list. (And before some pedant says – ah, but it’s celebrities, isn’t it, what did you expect – may I point out that it appears, because it includes politicians and business people, it might also have included authors and intellectuals. Tellingly, it didn’t.)

You can read it yourself and draw your own conclusions. And I acknowledge that the US list contains Al Gore and Barack Obama. However, seriously, what value do you put on a medium that has, amongst its most influential users, the likes of Russell Brand, Peter Andre and two members of McFly (in the UK) and P Diddy, Ashton Kutcher and Mariah Carey (in the US).

I ‘umbly submit, yer honours, that Twitter is no more valuable – in terms of an information-sharing medium that may have an impact on the future of communications – than an issue of Grazia magazine, received on your mobile device of choice, in instalments of 140 characters.

Tell me it’s not so.

Social Media Ate My Brain

I’m on LinkedIn – regular visitors to my blog (oooooooh, matron, fetch the side-stapler, I may have done myself a mischief) will know this, as I may occasionally have mentioned the fact. I’m a great fan of the questions bit, because, from time to time, there’s something useful. What follows is not useful, but it does illustrate some points. Here’s the question:

“So-called “social media” is a great way to reach very tech savvy audiences. But the reality is that millions and millions of people are not reached by online tools like MySpace, FaceBook, Twitter, YouTube and the like. How is your nonprofit reaching those who are not reached by social media, whether that’s people locally in your geographic area or audiences on a larger scale? How are you recruiting volunteers, reaching new clients, and reaching potential new donors who are not reached by MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc.?”

And here’s a couple of answers. First, one with a slight social media evangelist bias:

Using so called “social media” translates right away that you are not a fan of it
There is a difference between social media andthe social media networks which LI/FB and Twitter are only part of them
It doesn’t need a high tech person to be on FB or myspace, it has been proven that FB is getting gray
According to Pew Internet& American Life project in a report done March 18,2009, there is a jump of Users Ages 70+:
70-74 Years: 26% (‘05)- 45% (‘08)
75+ Years: 17% (‘05)- 28% (‘08)
MSNBC also had a report about how grand parents are on FB now so it doesnt really take a tech savvy to be on a SM network, all what it takes is to know how to sign in with a user name and password exactly as someone does with Emails signing and I believe that everyone agrees that people from all ages use Emails now
Anyhow this being said, you can reach people that are not on the internet by the traditional channels of marketing: flyers, postcards, letters, ads in local newspapers and magazines, having a radio interview in a local radio channel, newsletters, posters …”

And then there’s one with a little more – well – realism, when you come down to it.

“Well, my 80 year old father is a bit of a Linux hacker – I guess you get that way if you remember when mainframes had vacuum tubes…
Google “cincom” sometime…
Anywho, I think that one of the largest hurdles for “social media” (whatever the heck you want to call it – you can split hairs, but if someone says “social media,” I at least have an idea of what they’re talking about…) is…
BANDWIDTH
Your urban folks don’t have a problem – IF they can afford to set-up the hook-up…
The people it won’t touch are folks without computers/internet, and folks in rural areas… If you’re in the boonies, you either pay about $70 or so a month for satellite, or you sit waiting for your service provider’s messed-up hardware to figure out what it’s going to do… or maybe it’s the phone folks… Jen’s father has a dial-up connection. With a 56k modem, the best it gets is in the high 20s… And that’s with dialing a variety of different numbers (they use AOL, and I tried numbers from nearby to into the St. Louis metro area). Tried two modems – One a windoze modem, and the other a decent USR – same results.
There are also your basic luddites – they just don’t care.
Combined, I’ll guess that the “no net” folks probably are darn near 50% or more of the population.”

So, dearest blog snorkellers, what lessons can we extrapolate from today’s sermon? Firstly, we can get a grip on ourselves, and recognise that internet penetration – globally – sits at about 26%. (Fair enough, in the US it’s 74% and in Europe it’s 52%, I know). This means that, globally, only one in four people has the capability – never mind inclination or time – to access social media. The real penetration of social media is much, much lower. Some will bleat on about the US and European stats – where still one in four and one in two do not have social media capability, mind – and say that social media is of genuine importance in these markets. Isn’t that horrendously elitist? Tantamount to saying that only the US and Europe matter? And isn’t it just a little stupid, also?

Which brings me to the second learning for today. Judging by the use of language, the grammar, the syntax and the general presentation of (not just) these posts, plus the quality of some of the arguments they put forward, I can but conclude one thing.

Social media, quite obviously, eats your brain and turns you into a sub-spongiform cretin.