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Why A Social Media Policy Equals Reputation Insurance

Brittany Jordan



By Evan Nierman, founder and CEO of crisis management firm Red Banyan, which provides crisis PR consulting to clients around the world. 

When you purchase a new home or a car, you automatically buy insurance to help protect it from risk. A social media policy works much the same way, but the asset it protects is your reputation.

Your credibility and integrity are at stake every time you post online. Your reputation is conceivably more fragile than a house or vehicle, and it may also be trickier to repair. Do you have processes in place for addressing negative reviews and online attacks?

Here’s why it matters: Organizations that fail to set up social media policies before they go online are tempting fate.

Car dealers will not let you test drive a new car without proof of insurance because they want to make sure their asset is safe. Companies should operate in much the same way when it comes to protecting their hard-won reputations: Misunderstandings and misstatements can morph into online monsters with lightning speed if they are not addressed with speed and decisiveness.

Businesses routinely establish codes of conduct so that employees know what kind of behavior is acceptable and what is not. A social media policy is a subset of your business code of conduct that specifically addresses how your company is going to act online.

Companies that ignore this dynamic may find themselves the victim of “cancel culture” or an online attack if someone unwittingly posts something offensive, ignores a nasty review from a disgruntled customer or shares a photo that is misinterpreted. A social media policy provides guidelines that can help prevent these kinds of blunders from ever happening.

A confluence of factors has lead to a modern society that tends to react quickly to seemingly minor provocations. It’s no wonder the need for crisis communications is on the rise. A common sense social media policy can help your business respond to online comments and criticisms with calm and focus.

Here are four ways a social media policy provides businesses with invaluable guidance:

1. Establishes protocols for posting: A good social media policy will establish guidelines for posting and map out what is okay and what is off-limits. Make sure that everything you post helps position your brand in a way you want it to be seen. When it comes to social media, what you post can mean the difference between a simple daily update and a disaster.

Do you care what employees say about the company on their own social media accounts? A social media policy can spell out what is allowed so there are no misunderstandings. In effect, a social media policy helps an organization maintain some control about what is posted online.

2. Protects your brand: A social media policy will map out the actions you should take if your business comes under fire. For example, you can’t allow posters to say negative things about your company if they are not true. Will you respond to every unfavorable comment or just the ones that could cause lasting harm? Established guidelines will leave nothing to chance.

If your company does not have a social media policy in place, then what do you do if an employee posts an offensive photo to the company Facebook account or tweets a questionable video that backfires?

3. Creates rules of engagement: A social media policy should designate who responds to social media posts and when to take those conversations offline. Again, does your company want to respond to every unfavorable comment or just the ones that make significant claims? A social media policy can outline the type of things that can slip by and those that should not be ignored.

A company’s digital footprint can yield damaging information if posters are not careful about what kind of content they share online. A carefully crafted social media policy can help provide direction.

4. Showcases your values: A well-conceived social media policy will incorporate your core values. The content that you post should reflect positively on your brand and culture.

Creating a social media policy for your organization is the best way to avoid the need for crisis PR consulting down the road. A carefully constructed social media policy will keep your company out of trouble and your messaging on track.

Knowing when to respond to negative comments can be tricky. Establish guidelines before you need them so you know what to do and can respond quickly when the going gets tough. Protect your organization’s hard-won reputation from social media disasters with a common sense social media policy that showcases your values and helps guarantee your continued success.

Brittany Jordan is an award-winning journalist who reports on breaking news in the U.S. and globally for the Federal Inquirer. Prior to her position at the Federal Inquirer, she was a general assignment features reporter for Newsweek, where she wrote about technology, politics, government news and important global events around the world. Her work has also appeared in the Washington Post, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Toronto Star, Frederick News-Post, West Hawaii Today, the Miami Herald, and more. Brittany enjoys food, travel, photography, and hoarding notebooks and journals. Her goal is to do more longform features journalism, narrative writing and documentary work, and to one day write a successful novel and screenplay.

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