The Six Essential Steps for Developing a Social Media Policy

Do you have a social media policy for your library yet? At our Social Media webinar on August 29, we asked attendees this question, and a whopping 79 percent said no. Social media policies are important because they clearly define the purpose of your social media marketing activities, explain how you expect employees to interact in social media on behalf of the organization, and provide best practices. A policy benefits the library because it helps to manage the risk of engaging in these channels.

Step One: Assemble the Right Team

Start with identifying the right people at your library who should be involved in the development of your social media policy. Corporations usually assign representatives from the executive suite, PR and/or marketing, and legal. In light of the National Labor Relations Bureau statement on social media last spring, they may also include a representative from Human Resources.

In your library, you may fill many of these functions yourself, so consider asking representatives from your Board of Trustees to join the team.

Step Two: Educate the Team

Take the time to understand the best practices and latest guidance for developing social media policies. There are several resources you can use. An online database of social media policies is available at Social Media Governance. PR pro and author Deirdre Breakenridge helped the Public Relations Society of America define its social media policy and has elaborated on a best practice approach. And Eric Schwartzman, a social media consultant, offers a social media policy template, as well as a podcast discussion about the meaning of the NLRB statement.

Step Three: Define the Purpose

What you plan to achieve with social media and how you plan to use it to reach your goals is important to define. This will help you develop a focus and put parameters around what can be discussed on your Facebook page, in your Twitter account, on your blog and elsewhere. Some organizations use social media not to promote products, but to build awareness and support for charitable efforts. Others use it for customer service. Being clear about the purpose and goals will help ensure that only appropriate content is posted and shared.

Step Four: Conduct an Audit

Identify the social media channels where you currently have a presence and what is being discussed in each. Also note how many fans and followers you have.

Step Five: Develop Guidelines Appropriate for Your Library

Your policy should cover appropriate conduct, privacy and confidentiality, who speaks about what topics in each channel, a process for escalating issues, and legal responsibilities. Try to keep the policy as simple as possible and avoid including items that arent relevant to your specific situation.

Step Six: Training

Once you have the policy, dont just stick it in a drawer. Make sure all staff is trained on what the policy includes and best practices for interacting in social media. If you can, its a good idea to include your Board of Trustees in the training. Plan to have refreshers on the policy at least once a year.