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5 Steps to incorporate Social Media into Your Messaging Policy

Designing the Modern Messaging Policy

How we view and define messaging has been altered forever with the emergence and mainstreaming of social media during the past five years. Unlike early technologies for digital messaging, including email and websites, the new model of messaging, factoring in the wide array of social networks, is multi-faceted and requires the overhaul of the policies, procedures and technology for their management.

Editor’s Note: To download a fuller version of this article as a guide to modern messaging policy, click here.

The New Messaging Policy

Designing a modern policy includes rethinking five key areas. A policy should incorporate your governance and rules, but also serve as a model through which your messaging strategy can be executed efficiently and effectively.

1 – Who

Take the time to re-assess the team that builds and manages your messaging policy. In many cases this now spans compliance, legal, marketing (and sales) and operations. It includes corporate stakeholders who know every employee is exposed to email, and are aiding in the emerging groups of employees who are approved for use of social messaging. Representatives from those departments or divisions should contribute. This team will explore:

Core regulatory requirements around messaging retention and surveillance obligations
Corporate ethics and governance that expands or matches those regulatory specifications
How email campaigns (for marketing and other purposes) are coordinated and fit into overall compliance workflow. Also identifying how these campaigns can be linked to corporate social network accounts.
New, approved platforms for expanded social messaging (Facebook, LinkedIn et al) and how they fit into your messaging spectrum (archiving, surveillance and other reporting)
This review and resulting content forms the framework of your messaging policies and procedures. By finishing the remaining four w’s you will have comprehensive policy that can then drive your overall digital strategy.

2 – What

Here the team needs to define what your organization is trying to achieve within the parameters of a new messaging policy. We’re not trying to redefine how email for everyday use. However, we are drawing a new picture so everyone in your organization realizes the scope of modern messaging. Depending upon your needs, this section can be broader, thematic in scope (which can be more defined and detailed in your new digital strategy).

For example, by outlining the pillars of messaging for your organization:

At [company name], we define messaging as many components, including business email, email marketing, social media content and blogging.
Our responsibilities as ambassadors of the brand for [company name] are to remember the brand guidelines in our messaging. For example, using uniform titles, appropriate contact information (including social accounts, web sites, phone numbers, etc.) and insuring this is consistent across all of those messaging mediums.
Our goals is to insure we maintain the highest standards in communicating regardless of the medium we use (email, tweet, status update) – so following the guidelines in the [company name] messaging policy will help you support and preserve those goals.
3 – When

The team has now defined a clearer framework by being formed as the stakeholders for messaging and having outlined some broad scope for the new policy. Shifting a bit more into details, declaring when you will communicate also helps everyone involved understand how messaging is changing at your organization.

By laying out some guidelines, which of course can’t be as rigid in the digital world, will again serve as lanes on the road for employees. These include:

Email is the same as it always was – and continues in the everyday workflows within our organization.
We use mass email communications (email marketing) in many segments of our business, and often integrate those to our web sites and organizational social networks. These activities will also fall under the guise of this messaging policy.
The use of social networks has been in demand for some time across our organization. At the time of the release of this policy – we are defining what platforms and which groups within our organization will be approved to use social networks, including how to request access. This may include attesting to this messaging policy as well as  completing a social networks awareness survey and educational requirements.
Unauthorized use of email, social networks or other online tools not identified in this messaging policy may result in organizational disciplinary actions.
4 – Where

One of the challenges (and frequently a complaint from opponents to the use of social media) of approving social networks for use in digital communications is their propensity to change without notice. This makes defining “Where” so important to your overall messaging policy and strategy.

“Where” is where you confirm:

The public networks your organization approves as places for public, group and private messaging may occur as messaging.
The technology tool(s) you will use to meet the compliance requirements of your organization.
5 – Why

By choosing to leverage social media in your organization, parameters are going to be central to helping your employees, influencers and partners understand your objectives. Remember, everyone included and approved to participate in your new messaging policy becomes a brand representative, able to further your goals.  Consider these choices:

Are we launching a pure brand initiative, or also adding capabilities for customer service, education and/or training or even individuals within our brand to become visible (i.e. CEO or COO launches Twitter account)
Who do we intend to reach out to and connect with? Are we looking to communicate with customers or prospective customers or both? Some other audience important to our organization?
Are we measuring for certain outcomes? Social return on investment (ROI) like number of followers, engagement or are we looking to connect social messaging to organizational analytics like sales numbers or leads in our CRM system?
How will we review and fine-tune these parameters ongoing? Quarterly, annually? Who will participate?
To download an expanded version of this guide to the modern messaging policy click here.