Keep enterprise social in the green zone with proactive social media policy

Some of you may have seen conversations this week around a person who was given the boot from a marketing automation company, and, without wanting to get into that specific case  I think it’s important to be aware of the issues for organisations and create a safe playground for everyone. One way of doing this is by creating piles of Green, Orange and Red zone topics relative to the organisational opportunity and risk. 

Company social media policies were very trendy there for a while and seem to have gone off the agenda lately because everyone has calmed down a bit and realised that there are companies who do this stuff really well and if you just copy them and get everyone on the same page then the whole company isn’t going to collapse if someone says a sweary word on Twitter. There are 'oops, I’m so embarrassed I had a massive fail things' and there are blatantly flying in the face of a company-wide approach and not being considerate of other people trying to do their jobs things. Do it enough times and the other kids will start complaining which may result in your removal from the playground. 

The real opportunity here is in the Green zone. Creating a healthy and creative playground where people can express their ideas and have fun at work and not be stressed about someone narking them out to HR for uploading cat gifs at work (cat gifs are definitely Green zone).  So have a look at your company social policy and try to Green it up a bit by telling people heaps about what you want them to do online while being kind enough to talk them through the perils of the Red zone for their own good. 

So, actionable thingee number one. Find a social media policy that you like, copy, paste, modify. Cisco has a good one as does the US Department of Defense and Thomson Reuters. Good now you have a starting point and can start sorting your topics. 

Green zone topics are the ones that you actively want people talking about online. Your company being a great place to work, cool charity work your team does, industry research that supports the company. You can then pad them out even further with verticals and humans to speak proactively on Green topics. 

Orange zone topics is where you will have the most debate. The proceed with caution topics that you will kind of close one eye on but kind of want people to steer clear of if possible. For example, if you do client site Facebook checkin every time you are pitching for business and people can see who you are talking to all the time (I actually follow someone on Facebook who does this) it’s not very stealthy. 

One of the main criteria I have for Orange is: is there someone employed to manage this communication as part of their role? If there is, then general employees shouldn’t be touching it, they should be referring it to the person whose job it is. For example, Investor Relations in most companies is managed by a client side Communications manager or an agency. Employees should refer these conversations to the Communications manager. Other Orange topics might be general moans about your fellow employees, how dirty the company kitchen is, politics, details of your date last night and subsequent night time activities (ahem) and general trolling of competitors. Orange may also include who you get to talk to. For example, one, pre-social media one I used to get a lot was journalists going into supermarkets and trying to get store staff to comment on union issues as a representative of the company. It’s a lot harder to figure out this flow of information online but again, educate people for their own protection so their comments don’t end up embedded on a news site. 

Red zone topics are the bring in the lawyers ones. Some people really don’t like having this conversation and don’t actually believe that an employee should get thrown overboard for things said on social but I do. I very much do because I’ve been looking at data off social media monitors for about six years now and by golly I’ve seen some interesting things. One example was a retail store employee on Bebo giving instructions on how to steal iPhones from their shop including the location of the key to the glass case. Live blogging call centre conversations (lol but very privacy fail from your local bank), blabbing about people coming in for job interviews. Confidential company research findings and financial results, intellectual property including mock ups and storyboards, that sort of thing. 

Once you have some agreement on the piles it’s important to make it super clear to everyone that the safe playground idea is actually for their own protection and stops annoying busy bodies who sit at home at night going through your accounts from being massive kill joys and ruining social for everyone. Yes, I have been on multiple sides of this debate. 

Now you have this outline, the policy is managed by going big on the Green zone and using this as part of marketing and other communication activities. However, if someone keeps hitting on the Orange and annoying everyone then you have to dial things up and make the Orange a Red. Without knowing the details of the (cough, Oracle) case I mentioned earlier, I would imagine this is what has happened but remember the reason people are talking about it, is because it's the exception so gear you policy for the cool, Green zone of wonderful cats, clever employees and engaged customers. 

How do you get people to talk about your knickers?

I mentioned in a post last week the importance of using the correct term when you are talking about ‘marketing’ and ‘advertising”

Why does it matter?

Let’s look at the successful underwear company, Spanx

Which statement or statements are true? 

1. Spanx spends no money on advertising

2. Spanx spends no money on marketing

3. Spanx spends no money no money on paid promotion

4. Spanx spends no money on paid media

I saw an interview on 60 Minutes where the founder, Sarah Blakely and a journalist were talking about the success of the business and how they ‘spend no money advertising’. Some people hear this as 'no money on marketing,' and assume that if they build a better mousetrap, they won't have to invest people or money in marketing activities. 

To say that Spanx spends no money on marketing (or paid promotion) is incorrect. How do we know this?

First of all, the fact that Sarah Blakely was on 60 Minutes, filmed at a Spanx-run fashion show. I’m imagining here that Spanx created a fashion show event,(owned media-event), invited some influencers and media (earned media-influencer management and public relations), and obtained earned media through an interview on 60 Minutes (earned media-TV interview). 

Spanx did not pay for a 30 second TV commercial during 60 Minutes so they spent no money on advertising (paid media). They don't buy paid billboard space or take out pages in fashion magazines. However, the activities they carried out to plan and execute the event, influence and obtain earned media stories, did require people and money investment from Spanx. I’m also imagining that they promoted their event through email lists or social media channels and amplified their coverage on 60 Minutes through their company channels. All of these activities require effort on the part of Spanx and don’t simply happen organically. 

So does Spanx spend money on marketing? Yes. They don’t spend money on paid,third party advertisements but that is not to say they ‘build it and they will come’. Spanx invest people and money to get influencers talking about their products and build preference. Spanx has an excellent product and an excellent marketing approach with a focus on earned and owned media. 

The correct answer is 1 and 4.

Related posts:

Is paid-earned-owned media thinking still relevant?

Dave McClure 'most companies suck at internet marketing'

Preparing Key Messages for SpaceWalking Astronauts


Houston- we have a problem. Prepare for key messages.

At first rumblings that there’s a media issue on the horizon, Houston communications cranks out four pages of key messages

 It’s horribly inefficient and more importantly, ineffective. Especially when most communications Houstons don’t write key messages, they write laundry lists of facts. I was asked to sign off on one of these laundry lists this morning developed by a junior Houston.

She is a very good Houston, but had got into the habit of cranking out four-page lists to keep up appearances for the Astronauts. I had to remind her that key messages are:

1. For internal use only
2. For use by company approved Astronauts or Houstons only i.e. people that have an understanding of the issue already   to act as media spokespeople 
3. For communicating an established organisational, strategic position

 For example:

"We aim to find water on Mars by 2040"

Is a fact

 "I think humans will reach Mars, and I would like to see it happen in my lifetime". Buzz Aldrin

Is a key message (that’s why it gets quoted-that’s what you want).

Three of four maximum. Not pages, messages.

If the astronauts are out spacewalking, they don’t have time to read four-page documents when Oprah rings for a chat. Keep it simple, understand the issues, and make sure you nail the biggies on the media call.

"I believe that every human has a finite number of heartbeats. I don't intend to waste any of mine running around doing exercises." Neil Armstrong. You and me both Neil.