Building a Social Media Policy

Article excerpt

BANKS CAN DO LONGER IGNORE SOCIAL MEDIA'S PRESENCE AND THE IMPACT IT IS HAVING on how consumers interact and gather information online. Even if your bank is not participating in social media, your employees are--especially in their personal lives outside of work. The chances are good that as you read this article, community members, customers and/or employees are talking about the bank in some manner via social media.

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Social media can certainly present banks with risks in the workplace, regardless of whether or not the bank is participating directly. Such risks are manageable as long as they are acknowledged by the bank and mitigated with a properly executed plan and policy. Risks present the greatest threat when banks fail to acknowledge their existence. Knowledge of social media risks as it relates to organization and/or employee usage will enable your bank to craft a formal, written social media policy that is consistent with your overall mission, goals and appetite for risk. While a policy won't eliminate negative comments on social media from occurring, it can minimize the risks by providing employees with clear guidelines to follow when dealing with negative situations.

Social media use has become ubiquitous with today's consumers and has empowered them to become creators of online content. Before social media came along, consumers were primarily forced to listen to messages directly from organizations Companies were "pushing" brand and product information to consumers via traditional media outlets. Yes, word-of-mouth has always been involved as well, but not to the extent that it is today. Social media is an extension of word-of-mouth delivery. Today, consumers pull the information they want, when they want it. Consumers trust peer opinions, product reviews and feedback from friends and family above advertisements or any other form of external information pushed to the public by the organization. The rise of social media, therefore, means that our responsibilities as bank marketers have gotten a bit more complex.

Social media is often thought of in terms of a handful of well-known social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and so forth, but it is actually much more than these few sites. Social media encompasses the Internet technologies that enable consumers to easily share content online, including but not limited to, social networks, blogs, videos, photos, wikis, online reviews, online check-ins and more. There are thousands of social channels, networks and media tools--and the list is growing.

Currently the four networks most popular with community banks are Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Linkedln. Facebook now has over 500 million users. Over 3 billion videos are viewed each day on YouTube. Twitter processes over 155 million tweets per day and Linkedln has over 100 million members. Even though these are the most popular at the moment, it won't always remain the case. GoogleH - for instance, launched in the summer of 2011 and already has over 10 million users. Social media is a phenomenon that shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

When your bank starts to develop a social media policy, keep in mind that the policy is a document used to guide employees in the use of social media throughout the workplace. Therefore, there are multiple departments within the bank that need to be involved in developing this policy. Executives, marketing, public relations, human relations, compliance, legal and employees can all contribute to different elements of the policy.

Below are 10 guidelines to follow when drafting your social media policy:

1. Purpose

Outline the purpose and scope of the policy as well as explain how the bank is adapting to various online communications methods and why the policy is being implemented in the first place. Explain what the bank considers to be social media and why the bank is or is not involved with it directly. …