Your continuing education organization already has a social media policy, so why should you worry about social media business guidelines?
Some of the reasons for having a social media policy and social media business guidelines overlap — they ensure everyone understands the rules, for one — but also having business guidelines helps ensure your organization is on the path to success and promoting a uniform message across all platforms.
Here are five rules to think about when drafting social media business guidelines for your continuing education organization:
1. You can have open and relaxed conversations with your audience without saying anything and everything on your mind.
It's not good to slam your competitors, complain about business conditions or respond with a snarky comment to the person who's bashing you or your program (even if they deserve it). Make sure anyone interacting with the public via social media on behalf of your organization remember to always remain positive and try to be as informative or helpful as possible. Program employees should also take caution on their personal pages because they too are a reflection of the organization.
2. You must respond, to the good comments and the bad.
Nothing looks worse then when an unhappy customer leaves a comment on a Facebook page, only to be ignored completely. Not only has their concern been disregarded, but the neglect is out there in the open for the entire world to see. Your organization can come up with it's own wording, but if someone complains about a session or asks why they never got a refund they were promised, promptly and sincerely respond with something along the lines of "We're so sorry to hear you had a bad experience. We're going to do what we can to fix it." Then follow up with a private message or email.
The same goes for people who post praises. If someone says they had a great time at one of your conferences, respond by saying how glad you are that they enjoyed it and you hope to see them at your future events. (Now would be the perfect time to share a link to your schedule!)
3. You need to decide how you'll monitor your brand.
Whether you set up Google email alerts or use Social Mention, the monitoring of your brand needs to be a key part of your social media business strategy. Depending on your organization's reach, this could take some time, but it's always better to be a part of the conversation than to let it happen without you.
4. You may never need to use it, but you need to have a plan for crisis management.
If your program is a piece of a larger system, be it a university, community college, professional organization or municipality, that means what the organization at large does reflects on your reputation, and vice versa. Social media is a great tool for connecting with people very quickly, but that also means that opinions — good and bad — spread fast and far.
Your crisis plan should include: How and when you'll respond to a recurring concern or complaint. Some organizations will release a single statement and link back to it, while others will address audience members individually; How you'll alert your audience of changes to the situation and how you'll tell them once the issue has been resolved; and your level of transparency for the duration of the crisis. Transparency is important and your audience will appreciate it, but you always need to protect confidential and proprietary information.
5. You get out only what you put in.
Think your organization can get away with creating an account and moving on? Think again. If you're going to take the time to set up a Facebook or Twitter or whatever, you need to take the time to nurture your relationships in that realm. Lake Forest College's social media guidelines recommend at least five hours of staff time per week to maintain a department's Facebook page.
Businesses and organizations with pages on Facebook can schedule future posts, or you can opt for a more inclusive social media tool like Hootsuite or Buffer, which allow you to schedule messages across several social media channels at once.
What do you have in your continuing education social media business guidelines?