Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Developing a policy for managing and responding to online social media

Posted in Web 2.0 marketing by Timothy Platt on December 19, 2010

Following is a draft policy statement that incorporates elements of policies I have developed in the past, including quite recently. I offer this as a possible starting point for dealing with social media marketing issues where comments offered about a business, or through its social media channels may be problematical. My goal in this is not to formally cover all of the legal and organizational issues involved, but rather to provide a starting point for more detailed discussion.

Draft Policy
_ Organization A _ operates in larger communities. We communicate and connect as an organization with members of these communities through a variety of channels including social media. Our intent in all of this is to enter into mutually beneficial relationships. The purpose of this guide is to outline the _ Organization A _ approach in how we as an organization manage our social media outreach and in how we respond to feedback and comments received.

Social Media Messages Coming from or Representing _ Organization A _
_ Organization A _ is an active, ongoing organization and we will strive to keep our communities informed as to what we are doing and planning to do. We will post on upcoming events and on news related to our organization, and on news important to the people we try to reach out to. Our goal in this is to maintain a steady, consistent stream of news updates that connect to and support our ongoing mission and vision, and through Facebook, Twitter and other channels as appropriate.

It is _ Organization A _ policy that any social media marketing and communications coming from and representing the organization must be approved as to content by the organization. Any such social media postings or content must be placed online through specific approved pages, profiles and accounts that are formally maintained by designated, responsible members of the _ Organization A _ staff. Specific approval is required to set up or administer any new social media outlet or contact point that is branded as representing _ Organization A _, one of its offices, or its programs or events.

Contact _ Social Media Coordinator _ to discuss any proposed new social media account or outlet that would carry the _ Organization A _ brand before setting this up. The goal in this is not to limit the message but rather to keep it coordinated, consistent and effectively focused.

Genuine Social Media Feedback from Members of the Surrounding Community
Legitimate and even valuable social media messages, comments, postings and reviews can come in all forms. Some can come across as positive with regards to _ Organization A _ and some as neutral or even negative. It is important to note that even seemingly negative comments and feedback can be valid and offer real value to our organization, and certainly where they help us to identify areas where we genuinely need to improve. If someone has a problematical experience through _ Organization A _, we need to know about it and well written feedback can help us to more effectively improve our systems, processes and offerings, and in how we present them.

Negative feedback of this sort is appreciated and valued, exactly as is positive feedback. And when a problem is identified by someone in the communities we reach out to we will work on it to correct it. We will then share word of our remediation effort through the same social media channels in which we were initially informed of this problem and in direct response to the initial informing message wherever possible. The goal in this is to complete a conversation once it is started, and to publically validate the ongoing message that we do listen and we do respond.

Problematical and Inflammatory Social Media Feedback – channels and forums owned or managed by _ Organization A _
Not all social media commentary, however, fits this more benign and even beneficial model. Negative feedback, commentary and reviews can simply be posted with a goal of causing harm, and people who hide behind anonymity to strike out and cause gratuitous damage in this way are referred to in the social media communities as trolls. Their postings are generally characterized by overblown generalizations, factual errors and inflammatory and divisive language – rather than focusing on some specific addressable issue. Comments of this type will also be responded to as their intentional factual errors and derogatory language can and do cause real harm and both to _ Organization A _ and to the communities we serve.

If a comment or other content is posted on a social media resource that is owned and managed by _ Organization A _ that is deemed to be inappropriate, it will be deleted. Criteria for making this determination will include but not be limited to:

• Anonymous postings, where the person posting provided false information in setting up their user profile, so as to mask their true identity.
• Grossly inaccurate, derogatory, inflammatory content misrepresenting _ Organization A _ as an organization, or attacking or seeking to cause harm to individual staff members, customers or others.
• Spam and/or commercial advertising

_ Organization A _ reserves the right to establish and carry through on policy determining appropriate social media posting content for any online groups, Facebook walls or other social media channels that bear the _ Organization A _ name and brand as channel owner. _ Organization A _ also reserves the right to offer or rescind posting permissions through these channels.

Problematical and Inflammatory Social Media Feedback – third party review and commentary channels and forums
Third party social networking sites can and do carry and display postings, and this can include postings specifically related to _ Organization A _ and/or its staff members, customers and others. Policy discussed here deals specifically with social media comments, reviews and other content relating to or directed at _ Organization A _ as an organization, or at any of our employees in their capacity as employees or directed at our customers or others for their relationship to the organization. In what follows in this section of this document, these parties will collectively be referred to as _ Organization A _ as an attack on individuals specifically for their having a relationship with the organization is in and of itself an attack on the organization itself.

Effort will be made to identify and have corrected or removed, social media postings that are grossly inaccurate, inflammatory or derogatory and that primarily seek to mislead and cause harm. Initial effort will always include reaching out to the social media site or organization where this material has been posted and where it is showing as live. _ Organization A _ will reserve the right to seek legal guidance and action, and against the content originator, the site where this content is posted or both in seeking relief.

False or Fraudulent Web Sites, Social Media Pages and Profiles, and Other Online Resources Claiming to be Representing _ Organization A _, One of Its Offices, or One of Its Programs
Any online presence claiming to be representing _ Organization A _ as an organization, set up by person or persons from outside of the organization constitutes a direct and serious violation of the _ Organization A _ name and brand. Any attempt to raise funds through such a web site or other online forum constitutes probably fraud. _ Organization A _ will actively seek to have any such online presence taken down and will notify appropriate legal authorities.

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