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.

Fence Me In: How To Use Geofencing To Improve Your Social Strategy.

77% of people in the US own a smartphone and now over half of all people in the world use a smartphone. One of valuable features of a smartphone to marketers is the location or GPS capabilities. Yet according to a Search Engine Watch survey only 22% of marketers are using hyperlocal strategies (like geofencing) to its full potential.

A geo-fence is a virtual perimeter set up for a real-world geographic area. Geo-fences can be created as a radius around a store and event or set to predefined boundaries such as a neighborhood or city district. Geofencing must be used via a mobile app with location services turned on or triggered by an event like a geotagged post on social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Geofences can also be used to trigger mobile adds on popular apps that sell them.

The Salesforce.com blog tells us that the benefits of geofencing include increasing local sales by pushing notifications to customers in the area, improving analytics by measuring location based sales, time and frequency metrics, and adding personalization to highlight offers and messages to local preferences.

Best practices for geofencing include not making the fence too large. Keep it to within a 4 or 5 minute travel time. Have a call to action that is concise, locally relevant and requires prompt response. Also be transparent about privacy by letting customers know what and how their location information is being used. And target messaging by context (relief from downtown crowds), day-part (lunch time specials), and retargeting (customers who haven’t visited in a while).

Yet sometimes the best strategies come from thinking outside of the box. Mobile Marketing expert Rip Gerber suggest fishing where the fish are, which may not be around your store. Thus other strategies may include building geofences around competitor locations to attract new customers with a special offer or using a geofence around an airport to attract tourists. Also think about using geofences near arenas and events to attract attendees.

More advanced geofilter strategies include adding additional data to make geo messages more relevant. A retailer could use browsing data from an app or website. For example, when a woman who was looking at formal dresses on her phone enters a store she could receive formal dress messages instead of general sales or promotion messages. In addition, consider more helpful messages, such as a hotel, shuttle or rental car app reminding a person before leaving an airport to check in online, book their shuttle or rent a car via the app. Helpful location based reminders could increase brand loyalty.

When offers or promotions are used be sure they are significant and important. Getting interrupted by a mobile notification to save 25 cents may be more annoying than motivating. Also keep track of frequency so that you don’t bug people. Both of these actions could lead to the customer turning off location services on an app, which prevents further location based notifications in the future.

A version of geofencing is Snapchat’s sponsored geofilters. This adds a branded illustration to users selfies based on location, which are then shared with friends or followers. These are paid, but small businesses can purchase custom branded geofilters for as little as $5. One strategy could be a promotion where customers must post an image with the brand geofilter to win – ensuring they have visited the location.

Sponsored geofilter ads can now be bought through Snapchat’s advertising API, which enables marketers to pair a sponsored geofilter with a Snap Ad. This enables strategies such as buying a geofilter and then retargeting Snap Ads to people who used it. There is also integration with Snap Ad analytics dashboards to measure performance and geofilter brand templates can be created that then are easily customized for specific locations.

Other location based social strategies include leveraging geotagging in social media platforms to improve social strategies. For example create of geotag location names for local businesses, events or attractions. This can be done for Facebook and Instragram though Facebook Places. Instagram expert Jenn Hermman explains that customers who click on a geotag location see all other posts to the geotag, which can showcase brand products and services and help reach new customers through location search. 

Geotagged posts also allow brands to source user generated content (UGC). Reposting these publicly shared brand experiences shows customers the brand is listening, appreciations their contributions, and presents an often more believable perspective of the brand. Just ensure you get permission first before sharing.

What brands have used this strategy and practices well? American Eagle used location-relevant messages sent at the ideal time of the day to improve purchase behavior by 65%. Domino’s used geofencing around hotel locations to trigger local mobile ads offering ordering for the nearest locations. And a national fast food pizza chain used geofences around store locations to trigger a two-for-one take out deals. Notifications were delivered during rush hour, limited to users who had previously made online orders, and frequency was capped at a max of one message every three days. The result was an increase of 21% in the daily takeout orders.

How can you use geofencing and geotagging to improve your social media strategies? For more insights into the big picture in social media strategy consider Social Media Strategy: Marketing and Advertising in the Consumer Revolution.