Before your sales team jumps into social selling, you need a social media policy in place. Your policy should outline what employees shouldn't do, but it should also emphasize what your employees should do. According to CSO Insight's research, 71% of world-class sales organizations have implemented social media policies and guidelines for their customer-facing staff.

When you create your policy, it's tempting to Google "social media policies" and borrow heavily from other companies. But it's important to take time and draft something that fits with your sales team and your company. Here are six things you should consider as you go about forming a policy for your sales team. 

1. Understand the Risks and Regulatory Environment

Some of the risks will be specific to your industry. For example, in financial services, a customer's privacy is paramount. It might be cool to see a celebrity at a bank, but employees should not be tweeting about it or snapping videos for Snapchat.

But don't forget about the risks that are applicable to all companies, regardless of industry. For example, having employees on social media pose brand and reputational risks, which can be mitigated through the policy and social training (more on this below).

2. Write a Policy that Enables Salespeople and Communicates Your Trust in Them

It's easy to write a social media policy that is full of "don'ts." But if you only mention what is prohibited, your sales reps will be afraid to use LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook for business purposes, and your social selling program will never take off.

For social selling to work, you need salespeople to embrace social media and be excited about it. So, take the time to tell salespeople what they should do, and try to frame your don'ts in a positive manner.

For example, instead of including a rule like, "Don't pick fights on social media," you could write, "Be a good online citizen" or "Ponder before You Post." Both of those options express the etiquette and mentality required for social selling, but they do not dwell on the negative.

3. Include Key Stakeholders in the Process

Don't build a silo around your social media policy. Talk to your marketing department, which has extensive experience with social media. Talk to your HR department, which is familiar with your corporate culture and employee guidelines. Talk to your legal and compliance departments, which can help you navigate the legal and compliance issues related to your verticals and countries. For example, in the United States, companies have to consider the National Labor Relations Act's implications for social media.

Not only will your policy be better as a result; your social selling program will gain visibility within the organization. And visibility is necessary for your program to thrive.

4. Draw from Your Existing Guidelines and Policies

Your company may have existing policies in place – like an electronic communications policy or a code of conduct. Leveraging those policies is helpful when creating your social media policy. Here's why.

First, your employees are already familiar with those policies. So, when you show them the social media policy, the concepts will not be completely foreign to them. Instead, you are simply reinforcing existing guidelines in the context of social media.

Second, it is an opportunity to position your social selling program in the context of larger corporate objectives. This helps validate your program in the eyes of your executives and sales reps, alike.

5. Align the Policy to Your Corporate Culture

There's no one-size-fits-all social media policy because there's no one-size-fits-all corporate culture. How you want your sales reps to use social media will be different from how your peer wants reps to use social media at a different company.

For instance, you might encourage your employees to share unicorn and rainbow GIFs on Twitter, but your peer might discourage employees from sharing such things. Or, talking about politics on social media might be acceptable at your peer's company, but not at yours.

Bottom line: For social selling to be successful, customers must perceive your reps as authentic. Which means, the culture and brand your employees project online must match the culture and brand your employees live offline, in the workplace.

6. Use Training to Help Bring the Policy to Life

Your social media policy should not be a document that gathers digital dust in a hidden corner of a shared drive. Instead, it should be a document that is revisited on a regular basis. A good way to make your policy come to life is through social media training.

Let's say that your policy asks employees to be "good online citizens." During training, bring examples of people being good online citizens, and bring examples of people being bad online citizens. Help your employees see the difference.

Want to Learn More about Social Selling?

Check out our cheat sheet for social sellers.


Posted by Mark Bajus

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