I think all companies that are heavily invested social outreach should have a policy in place as to what they will and won't do, how they represent themselves, and what they do when negative feedback occurs. The Word of Mouth Marketing Association has a good toolkit that helps companies develop a policy, but I've decided to include a quick one-pager that any corporation could use to lay the foundation for a social media outreach policy. Here it is:
SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY OVERVIEW:
It is the responsibility of OUR COMPANY to guarantee that when we engage with social media contributors, that we are open, transparent, and accountable. As companies respond to this call to participate, they need clear guidance on the rules of the road
Marketers who want to join blog conversation must, 1) decide if and when it's appropriate, 2) do it ethically, respectfully, and with good taste. If they choose to engage, then these guidelines will help them do it right.
To ensure that OUR COMPANY is always appropriate and ethical when communicating with social media contributors, we abide by these set of written guidelines.
Consumer protection and respect are paramount!
We respect and promote practices that abide by an understanding that the consumer – not the marketer – is fundamentally in charge, in control, and dictates the terms of the consumer-marketer relationship. We go above and beyond to ensure that consumers are protected at all times.
Honesty of Relationship: You say who you're speaking for
Honesty of Opinion: You say what you believe
Honesty of Identity: You never obscure your identity
We instruct advocates about ethical communications and we never instruct or imply that they should engage in any behavior that violates the terms of this code.
BEFORE ENGAGNING A SOCIAL MEDIA OUTREACH:
- Review these guidelines before initiating any contact with bloggers.
- Share these guidelines with vendors, agencies, and staff.
- Keep disclosure and transparency top of mind.
SOCIAL MEDIA OUTREACH ETHICS:
1. I will always be truthful and will never knowingly relay false information. I will never ask someone else to deceive social media contributors for me.
2. I will fully disclose who I am and who I work for (my identity and affiliations) from the very first encounter when communicating with social media contributors.
3. I will never take action contrary to the boundaries set by social media contributors.
4. I will never ask social media contributors to lie for me.
5. I will use extreme care when communicating with minors or outlets intended to be read by minors.
6. I will not manipulate advertising or affiliate programs to impact social media contributors’ income.
7. I will not use automated systems for posting comments or distributing information.
8. I understand that compensating social media contributors may give the appearance of a conflict of interest, and I will therefore fully disclose any and all compensation or incentives.
9. I understand that if I send a social media contributor products for review, they are not obligated to comment on them. Social media contributors can return products at their own discretion.
10. If social media contributors write about products I send them, I will proactively ask them to disclose the products’ source.