A social media primer for indie filmmakers

Last week I had the pleasure of spending an hour over coffee with a couple of Seattle-area independent filmmakers to talk about their social media strategy. In honor of the occasion I put together a short (9 slides) introduction to social media.

While there are details that are specific to filmmakers, most of the concepts are relevant to almost every organization, both commercial and non-profit.

Coke’s social media policy for 1 million associates: a good template

Coca Cola’s recently released social media principles are noteworthy as well as easy to grasp.

In my experience few people, whether upper level managers or entry level employees, will pay much attention to long, complicated, legalistic rules. Thus it is well that Coke’s principles are short and simple because they are meant to guide more than a million employees associated with its extended business empire across 206 countries.

Coca Cola’s new online social media principles define three hierarchical levels of responsibility for its workforce: designated subject matter experts; social media certified spokespersons; and everyone else. Those not certified as spokespersons may not speak on behalf of the company. Certified spokespeople may speak in the company’s name but must refer difficult situations to subject matter experts. The principles apply to all employees but only appear to provide complete guidance to non-certified employees.

You can see Andy Sernowitz’s recent interview with Coke’s Adam Brown about the policy via this two-and-a-half minute YouTube video (highly recommended – short and sweet: nice work Andy). My analysis of the policy and Adam Brown’s commentary is below.

Features of Coke’s policy include:

  • it’s short–only 3 pages long, single spaced–which means everyone in the company can reasonably be expected to read it and take a shot at understanding how it applies to them;
  • it pushes responsibility for using good sense down to the individual employees, whether acting personally or on behalf of the company;
  • it mandates completion of standard (“certified”) training for employees designated as “spokespeople” who are empowered to post to social media on behalf of Coke; and
  • it represents the extended cooperative effort of marketing, HR, ethics and compliance, and legal departments at Coke.

The policy also:

  • bans fake posts and sites, and mandates disclosure of any compensation associated with reviews by bloggers;
  • mandates protection for consumers’ private, personally identifiable information;
  • requires recognition and respect for others’ intellectual property;
  • bans partnering with online scammers;
  • requires the same standards for employee behavior when online as when appearing in public with respect to words and actions that might violate laws (like insider trading) or tarnish the company reputation;
  • invites employees to forward negative online references to the proper department at Coke, while prohibiting them from responding personally unless they have been properly designated; and
  • delicately reminds employees not to share company secrets with friends and family online.

In addition, company representatives “certified” for social media, who are empowered to post on behalf of company online, are required:

  • to disclose their affiliation with Coke (they can’t pretend to be unaffiliated – see “fake posts / sites” above);
  • to keep a record of their posts;
  • to step back from matters they have doubts about and refer them to the “online relations” department; and
  • not to take credit for others’ ideas (related to intellectual property protection, above).

I give Coke’s policy an “A-” for comprehensiveness, simplicity, and clarity, with a point off for relying on additional policies and processes that are outside of this document, namely, Coke’s “Code of Business Conduct” that is applicable to personal behavior whether or not employees are online, plus of course the whole certification (training) process, whatever that entails.

The only fluff in the three pages was a single bullet point exhorting the benefits of utilizing best practices, listening to the online community, and following regulations, a vague catchall. This document is meant to be the unified source of guidance for all employees. The majority of the employees who will be asked to abide by these principles can’t reasonably be expected to research, draw conclusions from, and act independently based on their understanding of industry best practices, online community chatter, and government regulations. It’s just too much of a departure from their day to day jobs. That level of responsibility is better left to the relatively few certified spokespeople and ultimately the subject matter experts in their online relations department, who have accepted or even sought out this responsibility as part of their jobs.

If anyone knows of other examples of cutting edge social media principles, particularly near my home base (Pacific NW), please let me know!

When to delete posts to your company’s Facebook page

There are many ways to approach fan participation on business Facebook pages. I think the only wrong way to do it is to neglect your responsibility for figuring out how you’re going to handle it.

I recently contributed a comment to a blog post writtern by Lindsay Allen (guest posting on Amy Mengel’s blog) entitled “Facebook etiquette: To delete, or not to delete?” Lindsay pointed out two real world situations that might be encountered by a business’s Facebook page administrator.

In the first situation, excited fans of a company repeatedly leaked certain positive information about the company on the company’s Facebook page. Because the company wasn’t ready to discuss this news yet, it promptly deleted all of these fan posts, thereby giving those loyal and actively participating fans a bit of a slap in the face. What is more, the company created the appearance that it was trying to stifle conversation about something that was no longer a secret – not a particularly good image for the company. Lindsay concludes – and I agree – that the company should have recognized the fact that the secret was out, let go of the illusion that they could control this information by deleting posts about it, and stopped deleting those posts. Instead they should have pushed ahead their official announcement about the issue.

In the second situation a disgruntled  former Kohl’s employee (everybody’s favorite contributor, right?) posted something sexually suggestive about a current Kohl’s employee. Again, not a very good image for a company to present on its Facebook page. Lindsay concluded – and again, I agree – that Kohls should promptly delete such posts.

In a comment to Lindsay’s blog post, Ron from the software vendor Zend asked for opinions about whether he should allow posts to his company’s Facebook wall that were essentially promotions for other companies. I responded, in part:

[Lindsay] hit the nail on the head when she asked (about the Kohl’s situation) “[W]ould you want to read something like that about a store where you shop?” I think it’s about the flavor and group culture you want to cultivate. Coincidentally, I just visited Gary Vaynerchuk’s Facebook wall and since he’s all about self-promotion – he’s the new guru of self-promotion, IMHO – anything goes on his FB page. Not to my taste: I’m not likely to hang out there! But Gary V’s approach fits his brand. Would I expect that on Zend’s wall? No, I would be put-off and think you guys weren’t reading posts on your page. I would also expect “spam” to be deleted as a courtesy to me and my time. In other words, different content for different communities. But either way you pay a price as well, by setting the tone for conversation and creativity in posts.

(By the way, I respect Gary V as a marketer, and as a force of nature. I just didn’t personally enjoy reading the posts on his Facebook wall.)

Amy, the blog’s primary author, replied with an additional point that I think is significant: even if your Facebook page’s intended community isn’t offended by posts to your wall, other members of the public might be. So be prepared for backlash if you don’t exercise some level of editorial discretion over what winds up posted on your wall.

UPDATE: Dianne Jacob in her Will Write for Food blog recently posted a to-the-point profile of a popular food blogger’s decidedly non-laissez faire approach to moderating blog comments in order to create the type of experience she thinks her readers will enjoy: Blogging Pro Not Afraid to Delete Comments.

Social Media 2010: tension will increase between secrecy and openness

Bruce WilsonI recently participated in an online discussion about corporate social media policies hosted within a social media group on LinkedIn. The person who started the discussion posted Intel’s social media policy as an example. But things got really interesting when another participant asked her attorney, Tedrick Housh at Kansas City’s Lathrop and Gage law firm, to compare Intel’s and IBM’s policies. She posted the following response from Tedrick, who has graciously given me permission to re-post it here with the caveat that it represents his own professional opinion, nothing more:

[Intel’s] policy is undoubtedly comprehensive and makes a lot of good points. Without delving into all the links in the policy and exploring them in detail, and notwithstanding the disclaimer that any comments are the responsibility of the employee alone, however, my gut reaction is that this is a little too wordy. It also may create an approval mechanism that borders on “deputizing” all the individual tweets and blogs (“if unsure, check with a manager,” etc.) By exercising control, Intel may find itself liable for not policing communications as closely as the policies promise. The sparser, more colloquial IBM policy leaves more of an impression that as an employee, you swim at your own risk, and will be held accountable for your actions. As an employer, I would want to keep these communications more at arm’s length than the Intel policy intimates.

Thanks Tedrick!

I think this is a highly important issue that will become a major political football within many corporations this year. And although I think Tedrick’s approach – to push responsibility for exercising good judgment down to the individual level – is the optimal one, it runs counter to many corporate cultures and the over-protective tendencies of a majority of attorneys, I would imagine.

Link: Social Media Governance, a repository of corporate social media policies. (Thanks to Chris Boudreaux for maintaining it.)

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