Do you need a Social Media Policy?

You don’t need an expert study to tell you that social media is fast becoming the most effective way to spread the word about you, your work and your business. With almost everyone and their pets getting onboard the social media bandwagon, it’s no wonder that an increasing number of businesses, community based organizations, institutions and associations are dedicating resources towards maintaining a healthy social media presence.

Social media tools and platforms are attractive, even from a work perspective owing to the fact that they are easily accessible, easily understood and effective marketing-information avenues. Unfortunately though, the part most small businesses and artists forget, is that the widespread reach of social media can also be a huge pitfall – one politically inappropriate tweet can land you at the unappealing end of a difficult social spectrum. Blending your personal social media profiles with your business profiles may not always work. This is why it’s important to figure out what you need, and what you want to give up to social media platforms.

This photo was shared under a Creative Commons Attribution License and has been taken from the Flickr photo stream of Beth Kanter
This photo was shared under a Creative Commons Attribution License and has been taken from the Flickr photo stream of Beth Kanter

So what is a social media policy exactly?

As the name suggests, it’s a document that really digs deep into the what, when, how and who of an entity’s social media. The policy is basically a reflection of your intentions to use social media responsibly, and effectively to promote your work, career or business. A social media policy essentially has to cover two aspects:

(1) Clarify what ought not to be shared, and then put in place a disaster management mechanism for any business related melt-downs you might incur on a social media platform and

(2) Figure out how to further the reach of your business, while focussing on engaging your customers, clients, fans and followers.

A number of large companies have worked on creating social media policies that cover a range of issues including sharing news with respect to the company’s intellectual property, current projects, clientele, physical properties and corporate strategies. These policies have made social media usage much clearer to their employees and social media management teams. You can try looking them up on the internet since many companies choose to make their policies public.


But this is for a huge corporate – why is a policy something I need to think about?

Let’s start with a very simple understanding. Whether you’re an artist dedicated towards making a career out of your work, or a small business and start-up looking to expand your operations, chances are you’re using some social media platform to get the word out. As important as it is to get the word out, you need to make sure you know what needs to get out, when and to whom. Social media allows followers, fans and consumers the opportunity to observe the brands and artists they’re really interested in. It’s like watching what you would say if you knew you were making a speech in front of an audience, except that in this case it isn’t a speech but an update and you’re making it in front of the whole world.

If you’re looking to expand your operations, collaborate and grow either as an artist, as a brand or both, it’s good to remember that your social media presence today can influence current and future business prospects for you. For example, would you want to be associated with a musician who regularly endorses irresponsible and reckless behaviour on his facebook fan page or twitter feed? Or would you still be interested in collaborating with a start-up that has a tendency of promising more than it can deliver, especially through flamboyant tweets? Working out a social media policy for your brand or company really helps you focus on the direction you want your marketing to take – and more importantly, helps you avoid the public image you’re uncomfortable with.


So it’s really a public image thing, right? How does the law factor in?

There are a number of ways in which social media can lead to legal trouble for your brand or business. Allowing yourself or your employee to tweet or post something accusatory, untrue or silly about someone opens up the possibility of being slapped with a defamation suit. A seemingly harmless tweet about how much fun you’re having while working on Project X and the team comprising…can get you or your overenthusiastic employee into a world of trouble for having disclosed material that you were contractually bound not to. An employee or team member who employs some form of cyber harassment or bullying against a customer or fan can get your brand into trouble – both in terms of credibility and legalities. Social media is important and there’s a reason more contracts contain clauses and policies listing what is expected and accepted as proper social media behaviour.


This photo was shared under a Creative Commons Attribution License and was taken from the Flickr photostream of mkhmarketing
This photo was shared under a Creative Commons Attribution License and was taken from the Flickr photostream of mkhmarketing

So what might I have to look out for?

If you’re an artist or a business with a social media presence, you may want to keep the following things in mind while framing or discussing a social media strategy with your team or whoever is responsible for your social media management:

  • Intellectual Property: This would include ideas, strategies, product designs, lyrical and musical content that you own. It would also include any marks, brands or images you associate with your brand or a creative line of your brand. Make sure you’re clear about what you want to disclose, and what you don’t.
  • Confidential Information: Steer clear of deals, transactions and details that have the words ‘Confidential’ smeared all over them. Involved in an awesome musical collaboration, but not yet ready to disclose who you’re working with – Don’t. Just finished work on a new product line – don’t go posting images of it if the launch is a month away.
  • Credits: Some artists and enterprises prefer that all social media communication is made under a single identity while others like to make it known that their representative is sharing stuff on their behalf. Make this clear to yourself and your social media person – it’s always good to drawn clean boundaries and figure out how you want your brand to be presented.
  • Appropriate content: The internet can be a hostile and mean place, so it’s always good to ensure that material posted is neither inappropriate or capable of attracting any penal consequences. Social media is a way to exchange opinions and social critique, but think twice if what you’re saying is brutally honest or just plain defamatory.


And finally what do I need to remember?

As an artist or business owner, you can use social media as a power tool to communicate and engage with people around the world. It’s good to remember that this is a huge responsibility and that you owe it to yourself and your followers, to behave and work efficiently. If you work with a team, ensure that you regularly discuss social media strategies with them. If you’re on your own then go ahead and be your own social media strategist. When you’re ready to expand or when you feel the need, hire a good Publicist or Lawyer to help out with your social media management (you’ll be surprised by the number of marketing experts, Human Resource personnel and legal companies are getting in on this aspect of business).

Do you have any questions about how to frame a social media policy? Would you like to share some suggestions, pointers or feedback on this post? Go ahead and leaves us a comment or get in touch – would love to hear back from you.


    1. Glad to hear it Swetha 🙂 I think we really need to start paying more attention to Social media and how it influences our brands and businesses. Even from a legal perspective, there’s so much to consider and understand when it comes to employing social media for commercial -promotional purposes.


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