By Projectplace CEO Pelle Hjortblad

Social media channels are widely used in many industries because they facilitate interaction with customers, stakeholders and media and enable companies to share company news and opinion. Yet many companies are still hesitant to incorporate these social media channels–including blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube, just to name a few of the most popular–into their communication strategy.

Stories in the news about social media gone wrong, as a result of employee carelessness or inappropriate messaging, can be intimidating to some companies that are hesitant to begin using social media.

With a strategy social media policy in place, companies can avoid many common pitfalls. Here are five important tips for drafting a social media policy:

Step 1: Define the purpose of using social media. Do you wish to monitor what is being said about your company or industry? Is social media primarily a promotional tool? Is it a way to provide support and information to customers? Whilst it can be difficult to predict the impact of social media, it is important to define your company’s goals.

Step 2: Determine the social media platforms that will help you achieve your goals. Every platform offers unique benefits and requires a different level of upkeep. And not every tool is right for every business. For example, Facebook is very rarely a good fit for B2B companies, while blogging is universally valuable but more time-consuming to update.

Step 3: Set ground principles as a code of conduct for social media usage. These can include statements such as “always add value to your customers,” and “be respectful in all your communication.” When in doubt, employees can refer to these statements as a guide.

Step 4: Establish responsibilities. Who responds to what kinds of questions and how? Prepare written answers that can be used as reply to comments on company blog and Facebook. Point to best practices of engagement that illustrate proper and improper behaviour in social media.

Step 5: Identify company and industry related topics that employees are encouraged to talk about as well as ones that must not be referred to in social media channels. It is important not to function in broadcast mode only and to engage your community but sharing your opinions and insights on these topics.

Step 6: Assign staff coaches, experts within your organisation who are responsible for bringing employees up to speed and who can serve as mentors who employees can approach with questions regarding social media. Ask them to regularly brief staff on developments in social media.