From Facebook to Twitter to Instagram and Foursquare, one thing is abundantly clear—social media is here to stay. In fact, data show that people spend more time on social media sites than any other type of site. If you or your business are not actively involved in social media, now is the time to start.
As a business owner, the social media landscape can be confusing. You first need to determine who is going to manage your profiles. Will you handle them yourself, hire an in-house team or utilize an outside resource? No matter which method of management you choose, the following seven steps can help you minimize your liability and maintain control of all of your online profiles.
- Establish a clear social media policy.
You absolutely want your employees to feel empowered online. You want them to become the different (yet unified) voices of your organization because they will instill trust in current and potential clients. Putting a few parameters in place can eliminate any confusion about what online social activity is acceptable. A simple document signed by all staff members can address online company culture or items of a sensitive nature. Although some information might seem like common sense, not everyone understands that the Internet creates information that lasts into perpetuity.
Your employees have the distinct honor of serving as your biggest advocates; they can also be the first to tarnish your online reputation. The Internet and its content, whether positive or negative, are here to stay.
- Use one specific email account for online profiles you create.
The easiest way to keep track of your login information is to reduce the number of accounts you have. As a business owner, you can create a master Gmail account and utilize it across the majority of your social media platforms.
This includes using this login for local listings as well as the login for social media accounts utilized by your brand.
- Recommend that internal and external personnel do not use their personal social profiles for managing your business’ social profiles.
Accidents happen every day in social media, even with the most stringent precautionary measures. Your brand is no exception. If someone who is responsible for your brand online is linking to their personal profiles (including yourself), this greatly increases the chances of error. For example, having an unintentional post show up on your brand’s Facebook wall as opposed to Joe Smith’s timeline.
Do not give those who represent you the ability to make that mistake. While this error may not have the same negative impact for a local brand as it would a nationally recognized brand, it’s still your brand and it should be properly represented at all times.
- Where available, create internal and external personnel “managers” of your accounts without giving direct access.
As the business owner, you need direct access to your profiles with the ability to edit all functionalities of the profiles and listings. However, if you enlist others to manage your profiles, be sure to limit their access so that they cannot harm your brand by improperly editing items.
For example, in Facebook, a Manager is the highest level of Admin followed by an Editor. A Manager has full ability to edit and update Facebook, remove and change Admin rights, create ads, change payment methods, and even close down the page. This type of access should be given only to those whom you trust fully. Also, there should never be just one employee with that level of access. There should always be a backup. It is important to note that, as a general rule, most social media staff (internal or external) should be able to accomplish the necessary tasks with the Editor level of access.
Other platforms like Google+ and Foursquare enable you to allow others to become a manager without turning on full control for external vendors. Keeping permissions segmented based on need is something you must implement sooner rather than later.
- Use third-party software whenever possible to prevent direct access.
Many third party platforms enable others to manage social media accounts for you without having to log into the ‘native’ profile. For example, Hootsuite allows for different levels of access and the person who is charged with overseeing the online presence can keep a bird’s eye view of most online activity.
Though having native access allows users full functionality; these third-party programs limit liability and increase accountability.An outlier tweet can go viral almost instantly. In safeguarding against that you can track who sent an offending tweet and quickly revoke their access.
- Develop a hierarchy of access for those who need it during times of absence.
It may be necessary for there to be a password gatekeeper within your organization. Emergencies occur and they can disrupt the flow of business quickly. Plan in advance for the unknown and grant a staff member the ability to step in and essentially “be you” online, whether that’s posting to social media or responding to client emails.
I personally use an Excel spreadsheet to keep up with passwords for my personal and professional life. I use a master list saved in multiple folders in case I need to access it quickly either online or offline. You decide what’s best for your company but avoiding the conversation won’t make it go away.
- Outline a strategy for a PR crisis that all have access to and are empowered to follow.
You are no stranger to a brand making national headlines due to a public relations crisis. This can be anything from an unexpected oil leak to an employee uploading a video onto YouTube that doesn’t put your company in the best light. Regardless, the first thing your company and its online representatives must know how to do is to identify the crisis and respond accordingly.
This social media emergency response plan needs to be based on your industry and infrastructure. Think through a hierarchy of who is to respond and in what time frame. Consider if waiting is the best way to act and determine how to continue to monitor the incident.
The best time to plan for an emergency is in a moment of calm. You will need to have your wits about you and a plan in place to follow if a crisis occurs.
Social media is one of the most evolutionary marketing tools for small-business owners but it can also cause havoc if it is not approached with precaution. Following these seven steps will help you protect the investment you have worked so hard to build both online and offline.
Tiffany McDonald is the Digital Marketing Director of Zero In Digital, a division of CFM. McDonald has nearly seven years of experience with both social media and search engine optimization.
McDonald served in the United States Navy for six years prior to beginning her career in digital marketing. Her dedication and focus as a fire controlman has enabled her to achieve great success in civilian industries. She has an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of North Florida. She also received her Master’s in Internet Marketing from Full Sail University. She is grateful for the time she spent serving our country and she also enjoys her ability to be creative in her pos-military life.
Born and raised in Baton Rouge, LA, she has traveled the world. Nonetheless, McDonald is happiest at home with her family, her cats and coffee.
CFM is an integrated marketing firm in Northeast Florida with extensive capabilities and experience providing strategic planning, marketing, creative, advertising, printing and packaging, public relations and crisis communications services.