03.11.2015 Brands: Are your social media policies fit for Twitter?

Merseyside Police came under fire this week after an offensive ‘rape joke’ was tweeted from their official Twitter account in response to a similar post from a member of the public.

 They have since deleted the offending tweets and issued an apology – stressing the importance they put on protecting victims of sexual crimes.

 It is clear that social media accounts representing brands and professional bodies (especially the police) should have policies against joking about something as serious as sexual violence, or any other crimes for that matter. They would also be wise not to affiliate themselves with any particular political or religious movements or use offensive language.

However, most brands aim to project an interesting personality and to provide engaging content to distance themselves from the stereotype of the dull, lifeless corporation. There are plenty of examples of brands that do well on social media when alluding to sex or alcohol use or when using contentious language. However, it should be noted that they tend to be quite measured, humorous posts – a world away from the police tweet mentioned above.

It is not just public bodies that have come under scrutiny as a result of misjudged or off-brand social media posts. In 2013 HMV suffered from a series of damaging posts from disgruntled members of staff who had access to the company’s Twitter account. And just this morning the Twitter feed of Scottish newspaper the Stornoway Gazette appeared to have been taken over by an angry member of staff who criticised its editorial direction and hiring policies.

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Most professional social media blunders are not this extreme, but brands should use these examples as a reminder that the content of their online platforms affects the perceptions customers and industry professionals have of their overall capabilities and competencies.

 As social media is a significant public-facing element of so many businesses, companies should only give a limited number of staff access to these accounts. Not every member of staff will be capable of creating engaging content that consumers want to read, nor will they all be suitable for representing the company as a whole.

 Implementing a style guide is one useful way of creating effective content with a consistency of tone, voice and brand. Companies can consider the best and most appropriate ways in which to reply to customers, whether they are having issues with a service or want to show appreciation.

 If staff are trained in the style used to present the brand online, this also gives a company the opportunity to blacklist certain words and topics – limiting the possibility of businesses being judged on the contentious or undesirable opinions of individual employees. Businesses can decide suitable ways to talk about certain topics and the sorts of posts that should be checked with management before publication.

 Putting these kinds of preventative measures in place goes hand in hand with creating more thoughtful and appealing content, which people want to read and interact with.

 We’d love to hear what you think about how brands should best use social media. Tweet us @brightercomms.