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The art of crafting a social media policy

social media sharingSocial media is a great way to build relationships with business partners, customers and the wider public.

“Listening is the foundation of all good communication and social media makes it much easier for credit unions to listen to customers and partners alike,” says Sharad Mohan, director of company success at Vancouver-based social media management company Hootsuite.

“Public social networks bring customer conversations about brands out into the open.”

Ron Dau, AVP communications at First West Credit Union, sees great opportunities to advance his organization’s brand — as long as the social media outreach represents what the company stands for.

First West’s social media structure is based primarily around Twitter, but the credit union is also on LinkedIn, Flickr and Facebook. The main site is directed more at business partners, while its local brands Envision Financial and Valley First are directed at members. The communications team looks after the official social media channels but they also encourage staff to get involved.

“Some people are hesitant,” says Dau. “But we want them to be comfortable and help them with what makes a good representation of our brand external to the organization — so it’s a success for them and a success for the organization.”

Social media and the law

Defining what is acceptable social media use is important, both in the workplace and outside. The latter is particularly vital as recent legal cases in Canada have upheld the dismissal of employees for defamatory comments made involving their employer or colleagues, even on their own personal social media sites.

Defining what is acceptable social media use is important, both in the workplace and outside

Dan Burnett, a lawyer at B.C.-based Owen Bird law corporation, says that anyone with electronic real estate must be aware of the potential liability they face with any post, even by a third party.

“What companies need to understand is that if someone weighs in on a conversation and makes an accusation, you, as the ‘publisher,’ could be responsible,” he says.

Burnett says his law firm is seeing an increasing number of clients who are coming to him as their business is threatened with lawsuits as a result of something that appeared on their website or blog.

“Anything you post is permanent and can be used as evidence,” says Burnett. “even sarcasm can come across wrong in writing.”

Practical guidelines

Getting the conversations right requires clear internal guidelines, according to Mohan. “The sooner a credit union introduces a social media policy, the sooner it will be able to confidently engage in social media without fear of governance and compliance problems.”

This sort of practical advice fits with First West’s objectives.

“We have a number of guidelines in place and a lot of them fit in with other policies, such as privacy for customers,” says Dau. “the guidelines we have in place are for what they should do and what they should avoid.”

Striking a balance in the guidelines to staff was an important consideration.

Ultimately, any set of guidelines might most sensibly just reinforce what could be described as normal social behaviour.

“We can just be ourselves — truthful and show respect,” says Dau. “we want them to be respectful to the credit union, to colleagues and peers, and competitors. we don’t need to put other people down to make ourselves look good.” ◊