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How to Build a Social Media Policy
Wednesday, March 19, 2014 6:40 AM

According to Michael Ogden, media relations manager for CUNA Mutual Group, too many social media policies in credit unions are born in the aftermath of a social media gaffe, as in, “We should have had a rule about letting Larry post our Facebook updates after midnight.” To put the social media policy’s place in your organization into perspective, Ogden suggests comparing it to your lending operation.

“Your lending policy documents the basic parameters for risk tolerance, loan types, reporting structure, compliance process, etc. On that foundation, you build lending strategies—indirect auto loan alliances, monthly direct mail campaigns and the like—which are carried out in the day-to-day performance of your branch managers and lending staff,” he says.

Your social media program can follow the same structure, more or less. Every credit union is different, but Ogden says credit unions should consider addressing these basic elements in your social media policy:

1. Ownership/authority: Someone must take overall responsibility for your credit union’s social media activities, but in the social media sphere, that’s not as simple as it sounds. Effective social media is timely. It’s not a broadcast, it’s a conversation—and if you’re not an active participant, you probably won’t engage your target audience.

2. Metrics: How will you measure success? As with many types of public relations and marketing, measuring the full impact of social media isn’t possible. With some coaching in web analytics, however, you can set certain benchmarks that will help guide your strategy.

3. Tone: Social media is a conversation—right?—so be conversational if you want to be relevant. And be in tune with the platform. A credit union Facebook page might be like business casual; Khakis and dock siders. Twitter? Shorts and flip-flops. Although tone is certainly a strategy, it also belongs in the policy, so everyone involved understands that posts, tweets, videos, etc., will probably depart from the more formal business communication style of older media.

4. Compliance: Your policy should establish when compliance is required, especially for any content relating to specific products. This material can be construed as advertising that requires disclosures. Contests are popular social media tools, but many are subject to specific rules. So your communicators should have an excellent working relationship with your compliance expert.

5. Continuous monitoring and follow-through: Detail how often your social media accounts should be monitored. Responding to comments from outside your credit union is critical, especially (but not only) when they’re negative. Show that you’re plugged in.

It’s also important to cross-check information you receive and disseminate through social media.

Encourage all employees to respond promptly when your social media person routes them a request for service or information. Immediate, accurate responses build a sense of community among social media users.

“You’ll have little choice but to review and adjust your social media policy at least annually, because chances are your audience will be using different media and technologies in different ways a year from now. Electrons are whacky like that,” he says.