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Social Media and the art of conversation, or what’s my social media policy?


Written by Simon Geraghty.

Some ground rules

Having completed an introduction to social media training course with a client recently it struck me that your tone of voice and behaviours, particularly as a business, in the world of social media is worth debating.

Social media carries many of the mores that exist in our face to face networks. If you and your employees are taking to social media in droves you need to establish a few ground rules. What subjects for you and your business is in scope and what is out of scope? The territory you are entering is part PR part editorial.  You are now generating, ideally, original content so think of this as your businesses editorial policy if you will.

Take one example, the Irish presidential race is quite newsworthy at present but is it really the place of your company to join the debate? Unless your business happens to be in publishing or editorial creation and development, the answer is probably no. I certainly don’t want my Bank, Accountant, Travel Agent or Taxi Company telling me who they will vote for. However, your taxi driver is another matter entirely, but you are speaking to me as a business, not as an individual.

Always ask yourself the following: what would a current or prospective client (or manager) think if they read this? And if you decide to enter the debate, or endorse a candidate, you will need to tell me why you are doing this. You should be open and up-front about what is in it for you as a company.

These same principles should also apply to any groups you sign up to while representing your business.

One voice v many

Take some time to decide who should speak on behalf of the company? From a small company I’d rather hear about one amazing thing you’ve done from one person than ten moderately interesting ideas from ten separate sources…. If you are a larger company you need to try to keep everyone on message, what one selling point or proposition do you want to put out there?


If you decide to use humour tread warily. As a bank, building society or credit union should you be showing me your humorous side? What style of humour is appropriate? Conveying humour in the written language is a skill in itself. If you are a playwright, screenwriter, author, or comedian, do your worst…. Even these experts can fall on their faces occasionally.  The recent Volkswagen ad with the 2 foot tall Darth Vader is an example of something that works really well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R55e-uHQna0

How often?

In terms of frequency there is a fine line between spam and engaging content. No one likes that person in the canteen, party or pub who is forever banging on about themselves. You know the type “we went on holidays to blah blah blah and found the whole place to be appalling blah blah”. Well if you only talk to your Twitter followers, Facebook fans or particularly your network on LinkedIn about your services, products, offers, or prescriptions for Viagra don’t be surprised if people start to tune you out. You might very well be consigned to the social media equivalent of the junk mail folder.

At the same time remember to be accessible if your business is lucky enough to have fans, followers, friends, readers of your blog and they have a question, query, or even a complaint get out there and answer them. Ideally you should be looking to respond within a 24 hour period.

Honesty & Style

Strive for honesty and transparency, but also remember client confidentiality. Do you handle products, campaigns or projects that are commercially and time sensitive? Do you have your client’s permission to talk about a project? Remember also to quote both your sources and who you are representing.

The medium you are using should also influence your style to a degree. For example, LinkedIn lends itself to a highly professional and authoritative style, Facebook to a friendlier and more inclusive one, while on Twitter being irreverent or lighter is better received. While over on Google Plus it really depends on which circle you are addressing.

Some quick pointers in terms of style:

  • Be knowledgeable, but easy on the hard sell. You should look to close the deal on your site, on the phone or face to face.
  • Be the expert and factual, but try not to drone on. Try to be as concise as possible.
  • Be friendly, measured, always be polite and civil.
  • Be informative, direct and honest. Your classic ‘terms and conditions apply’ disclaimer might be acceptable to a radio station but it will leave you wide open to scrutiny in what is a 24 hours a day medium.

You have the opportunity to get real time feedback on what you are doing right and doing wrong with customers.  Don’t pass up on the opportunity, now get out there, don’t be shy and enjoy yourself. 

So what’s your media policy?