Think lawyers are expensive? Maybe so. But it’s cheaper to bring them in before you have a problem. This common wisdom holds especially true for your corporate social media strategy, which is why your social media team should have a legal representative as well.
It should be a requirement to make legal professionals part of your team from the inception. Bringing them in on the back end to clean up a mess is never desirable. Plus it doesn’t make for a great collaborative relationship, because you messed up and you now need legal’s help. And solving legal problems on the back end is never pleasant. It’s far better to know and establish legal rules of the social media road before you’re entering into and engaging in conversations on social media sites. Let’s face it, corporate social media activities are really public relations (PR) in the new social networking space. Therefore it makes sense
Part of the POST method, your new media team should, at a minimum, get legal involved in the O (Objectives) and S (Strategies) phases. At a generic level, legal can help you stay out of trouble, guide you in all policies relating to news media and customer-facing communications. Legal can also provide you with guidelines on what an employee can and cannot (or should and should not) do in the social media arena. Here are some specific roles of legal participation within the social media team:
- Social Media Policies. Comments, backtracks, discussions on and off of your site. This covers locations both within your own websites, blogs forums, and on other websites, blogs and forums. It also controls how your employee(s) should start new topics, and how to resolve complaints and negative feedback. Legal can provide guidance.
- Authorized Corporate Bloggers. If you’ll have just a few key individuals actually doing the engagement with the outside world, establish rules for them to follow. Otherwise if you encourage a wider employee participation, then have a different set of rules applied to all. The key words here are guidance and coordination, not hindrance. Legal can help establish rules.
- Social Media Interaction. We all know that the Internet is always open, and with the global reach that it provides, the corporate social media team (and therefore your company) is also always open. Consumers worldwide are active in the social media space all the time (and especially after work within their local time,) your social media team must be ready to engage at any time of day, within reason. This is especially critical when a potential issue (positive or negative) about the company and its products is going viral. So you’ll need to be involved early. Legal can help define the dos and don’ts.
With all these guidelines in your pocket, you are now ready to go all out and promote your company, products and services. They will protect you while you’re out there engaging, supporting and solving your customers’ problems.
So go ahead. Build your social media team. Select the best and sharpest marketers, PR people, and technologists. Just don’t leave out the legal rep.
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