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A Social Media Starting Point

by on April 25, 2013

The first time any organization considers entering into the murky waters of social media, the question of policy—both internal and external—inevitably arises. The idea of opening yourself up to anyone with an internet connection and an inclination to tell you what they really think, well, that can be an intimidating proposition. However, the benefit in this instance well outweighs any negatives. And having a policy in place is perhaps the best first step.

We know that the world of communication and marketing has changed dramatically in recent years. It is no longer the case that you can simply push your message out to the public over and over again and hope they get it. Marketing is not a one-way street anymore. Instead we must find ways to engage with our customers and build dialogues which will increase our reach. Social media is only one tool in the marketing arsenal, but it’s a big one.

A social media policy should consist of a few key items: Who, What and When.

Who: Clearly define how you will determine who is running your social media accounts. Is it managed by one person or a department? What is the chain of approval? Don’t block yourself up by making one person the overseer and administrator of all content. You will create a bottleneck that will make your social media unnatural.

What: Don’t spend paragraphs outlining what you can and cannot say on social media. But do spend a valuable moment stating the importance of being respectful and using good judgment. Susan Brown, Marketing Director for Lawrence Public Library, wrote a wonderful blog on this subject in December of last year. In her library, the rule to live by is: “We will not post anything on social media that we would not say at a service desk.” (http://658point8.com/2012/12/07/social-media-strategy/ ) This is a fantastic rule.

When: Dedicating a certain amount of time each day to social media makes managing it much easier. Outline what is acceptable for staff so that everyone has the same expectation. And find tools like HootSuite (www.hootsuite.com) and Tweetdeck (www.tweetdeck.com) to help manage all of your sites in one place.

Once you have a basic idea of how your social media will be managed internally, the next step should be to establish a social media policy for those who engage with you online. Monitor what is happening on your sites at all times—make sure you know when someone posts to your page and if it is something that is offensive or disrespectful, delete it. If it is something negative, see it as the opportunity that it is and find a way to respond. Use it as a chance to have a conversation publicly about the issue at hand. Even if your response is simply an apology for something that has that person upset, by responding you are telling that person (and anyone else who sees the posts) that you are listening and that you care. The ability to have a personal interaction like that is one of the most valuable aspects of social media.

Finally, determine what your goal is for social media. If you simply launch a Facebook page and then never post, or you post but never interact with your customers or your community, you have missed the point. You must be active and you must find ways to engage in these spaces in order to see some kind of measurable result.