In Parts 1, 2 and 3 of this series on effectively using social media to market your MSP’s services, we’ve looked at the importance of planning, creating the right content for the right audience, and choosing your social venue(s). In Part 4, we’ll get down to the nitty-gritty: establishing guidelines and policies designed to prevent your social media experiments from turning into financial or reputational nightmares.
Who, what, when and where
At a minimum, your guidelines and policies should define the “who, what, when and where” of your social strategy. We talked a bit about the “what” in Part 2, in terms of deciding what kind of content you want to publish on social sites. In Part 3, we addressed the “where” as we discussed how to choose the right social networks for your purposes.
“Who” refers to the person or persons charged with the responsibilities involved in getting your social posts out to the public. Those duties might all fall to one person, or they might be divided. You might have several different people providing content, but one of them – or someone else entirely – coordinating it to see that there’s no duplication or conflict in message, and that all the posts meet your goals and guidelines for content.
We tend to think of social posts as spontaneous and casual, but because the image your organization creates through social media is important, you might want to treat them more formally, going through copy editors and/or technical or legal reviewers before they go “live.” However, you don’t want to get so bogged down in procedural detail that the posts turn into nothing more than mini press releases. It’s a tricky balance to achieve, but your guidelines and policies should make clear what the agreed-upon procedure is to be and who has to sign off on the posts prior to publication.
Even if yours is a small, more casually-run company, when you’re designating the “who” in policies, you should identify individual responsibilities by role or job title, not by name.
“When” refers to your posting schedule. How often will posts go out to each social venue? How will they be spaced? Some organizations (and individuals) on social sites seem to “save up” everything they have to say and then dump it all at once. They go days or even weeks without posting at all, and then flood their friends and followers with half a dozen of more posts within a few hours. This is less effective than maintaining a constant presence ranging from one or two posts per day to a post every two to three days on a consistent basis.
Finding the best frequency for posting might require a bit of experimentation and is subject to change as your business grows or changes its focus. Rather than laying out a hard and fast schedule in your policies, you might state that posts are to be made according to an editorial calendar. The calendar can be developed on a monthly or quarterly basis. The calendar doesn’t necessarily have to define ahead of time the topic of each individual post, but it’s often a good idea to plan ahead to work with weekly or monthly themes.
Policy and guideline elements
Your social media marketing policy should be an organized document, not just a hodge-podge of rules and guidelines. Begin by defining your mission and specific goals that you hope to accomplish with your social media strategy.
Metrics are easy to collect (although sometimes not as easy to analyze and understand). Certainly numbers can be important, and increasing the number of followers or fans will obviously help to increase your reach. Another advantage of goals involving metrics is that it’s easy to measure your progress toward them. However, numbers don’t tell the whole story. Your goals can (and should) go further than that. We talked about these goals in Part 1, when we discussed planning your strategy. Include your specific goals in your guidelines and policies, to keep the responsible parties focused on them.
Another thing to consider defining in your policy – especially if more than one person will be creating content and/or if the role is likely to be passed around over time – is your company’s social “voice.” Just as you don’t want to put out conflicting opinions or facts, you probably don’t want different posts to have vastly different voices (style of speech). Because social media is about people, not just information, followers are more likely to “tune in” for your next post if they feel they know the person who’s doing the “talking.” Even if that persona is a composite/manufactured one, the consistency will make your posts more effective.
Your policy should also spell out any prohibitions – whether in type of language used, taboo topics, or other characteristics to be avoided. Mention of politics, religion, sex or other “hot button” subjects should usually be avoided, even in passing. Sarcasm doesn’t translate well in writing, and that’s even more true if you have an international audience where English is not the native language of some of your followers. Be aware of cultural issues in that case, too. Humor is tricky – clever posts will endear you to your followers, but trying to be funny sometimes comes off as offensive or just confusing.
You should also include provisions making it clear that social posts are required to comply with copyright laws and other laws and regulations, should respect the privacy of others, must not contain misleading or deliberately inaccurate information, should not reveal trade secrets or other confidential company information, and so forth.
Once you have nailed down the details of how you want to implement your social media marketing strategy, you should formalize those details in written guidelines or policies, to ensure consistency and to make posts more effective.
In this 4 part series, we’ve provided an overview of how your company can get started participating in the social community in a professional but engaging way, to help accomplish your business objectives.