A Guide To Social Media and UGC Policies for Employees, Influencers and Fans.

Are you leveraging the influence of your employees and fans in social media? Brand evangelists whether employees, influencers or fans have enormous potential to greatly impact perception and demand of products and services through user generated content (UGC). Research reports consumers trust other people more than advertising and this gap may be growing with younger generations.

Social Media Policies for Brand Evangelism

A Salesforce survey found the most trusted sources of product information was online reviewers (31 percent) and friends, family and colleagues (23 percent) ahead of the band itself (20 percent). With Millennials trust in online reviewers was 40 percent, followed by friends, family and colleagues at 25 percent and trust in the brand itself only 19 percent. Yet, before launching into a widespread brand evangelism or UGC campaign there are important considerations to follow.

The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) publishes Social Media Discloser Guidelines that explain brands have responsibilities to ensure influencers, partners and employees properly disclose relationships and ensure statements about their and competitor products and services are truthful and accurate. They suggest explicit social media policies and ensure partners have their own policy aligned with brand standards.

Yet WOMMA indicates it is not enough to have a policy and publish it. You should train and educate influencers, and employees on those policies and actively monitor brand campaigns to ensure standards are followed. Also consult government websites (like the FTC) for current views on social media disclosures and claims.

Social Media Policies

Social media policies set standards for employees and partners for the way they post content in social media as part of their job or as a private person. The Forbes Human Resources Council suggests social media policies should be comprehensive including guidelines across many categories, best practices and training tips. Yet, Jylian Russell of Hootsuite says actual social media policies can vary greatly from a comprehensive legal document to condensed straightforward guidelines.

Examples include the two page Adidas guidelines to 14 page New York City Schools guidelines. Intel’s social media guidelines take a balanced approach with a short summary of 3 rules of engagement expressed in a simple graphic as (1) Disclose your relationship to Intel, (2) Protect Intel, and (3) Use common sense when posting. The policy then expands to explain the three rules with details, examples and links to additional, resources.

A good policy will consider standards for official brand accounts and standards for employees on their own accounts. Jylian Russell suggests a social media policy include rules and regulations for behavior and conduct including brand guidelines, etiquette, engagement and confidentiality. Roles and responsibilities should be specified and legal risks should be addressed such as crediting sources, confidentiality and disclosure. Security risks can also include information about secure passwords, attacks, or scams and accountability.

The Forbes Human Resources Council says a social media policy should include several categories. First educate about social media including specific platforms terms of use, conditions and limitations. Then explain blurred personal and professional lives and how personal social media actions have professional implications. Remind them to think carefully before posting about controversial issues and follow conventions as a brand representative. Set standards for respecting professional boundaries of co-workers including guidelines for internal workplace issues and conflicts. Identify how to clarify their opinions as their own and ensure they don’t disclose confidential or proprietary information.

User Generated Content Policies

Another important consideration is user generated content (UGC). Many fans often share content to the brand hashtag or handle and you may run contests, events and promotions to ask for this content. Practice good policies when it comes to sharing, repurposing, and eliciting UGC. One important practice is attribution or giving original authors credit for their content. The fan-based marketing company Tradable Bits says the way to attribute user generated content varies per platform, but a general standard is to include the original network’s official log, author’s username, profile picture and a live link to the original content. Alex York on the Sprout Social blog suggests in social media adding the words “credit,” “photo,” “cc” or “by.”

In addition, Tradable Bits suggests that brands should explicitly and transparently request permission for the rights to use fan photos and post content. This can be as simple as replying to posts asking that they grant rights with a response. To go with this ensure you have a publically published rights granted, or user generated content policy that spells out the details of how the brand will use UGC so fans know exactly what rights they are granting. The website TermsFeed suggests included clauses addressing the categories of intellectual property, liability, privacy and acceptable use. Macy’s User Generated Content Policy is published on their website and covers brand social media channels and hashtags.

Are you leveraging employees, venders, partners, influencers and fans to their full potential in social media? Before diving in consider legal requirements and having strong social media and user generated content policies in place.

Please note that what is presented here is simply general guidelines and does not imply legal advice. You should consult your lawyer or company’s general counsel before any action or policy.

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