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Why a Social Media Policy is a Must For Your SME

It can take companies years to build up a following on social media, but only a few seconds to destroy it with a careless tweet, not responding quickly enough to negative comments, or a hack.

This is why a social media policy is vital for SMEs. With a solid policy in place you can minimise the chances of reputational risk and plan for what to do in the event of an emergency.

 Your policy should detail how to handle defamatory comments on social media and provide staff who handle your business’ social media accounts with a guide on how to deal with complaints.

In a world where customer satisfaction is king, social media provides a forum for people to air their grievances so it’s important not to ignore them and to respond swiftly to let them know their concerns are being taken seriously.

Social Media Complaints Response Time

Aim to respond to complaints on your social media channels within one hour and reply to emails or private messages over social media in the same amount of time or within 24 hours outside of working hours. Private messages can quickly become public complaints if the customer feels aggrieved.

How to Deal With Complaints About Your Business on Social Media

If the complaint is legitimate then you should address the issue as soon as possible. Ensure your social media policy details who should handle complaints and at what point serious complaints should be escalated to a manager. If the complaint or negative comment contains misinformation then respond with a gentle correction on the facts. If misinformed posts carry on then you may choose to continue to respond correcting the facts or report the issue to the social media network, depending on the situation.

Your tone of voice should also remain consistent when handling complaints and is something you might choose to detail in a social media policy. If you are under threat, changing to a more formal or even a legal tone when responding to negative comments or criticisms can rile your followers and fans.

Rather than simply deleting and ignoring negative comments or complaints you should try to resolve the situation, for example, by asking them to send you the details so you can fully investigate the matter. To avoid sharing personal details you can ask to receive the complaint ‘offline’ over private message.

ASA’s CAP Code

Many businesses are unaware that what you say on social media is subject to advertising laws. The Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) code must be followed and failure to do so can result in powerful online sanctions.

ASA can feature non-compliant companies on a dedicated area of their website so that when consumers search for their website they will find the name of the company along with the details of the problem with their advertising in the search results.  In cases where businesses are ‘named and shamed’ by ASA, the bad publicity can remain associated with the company damaging the brand for a sustained period of time. This is why most advertisers are quick to amend or withdraw advertisements, and by extension social media posts, which break the CAP code.

The CAP code dictates that you cannot share or post anything misleading, harmful, offensive or irresponsible on social media. Your social media policy should reflect the rules set out by the ASA as ‘online ads’ are now the most complained about advertising medium and the ASA can investigate your content after just one complaint. You can check out ASA’s advice and guidance on how to create campaigns that comply with the rules.

How Often You Should Review Your Social Media Policy

With Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, Google Plus and other social media platforms changing so frequently I would recommend that you revisit and renew your social media policy (alongside your IT and HR policies) every year.

Your company social media policy should work hand in hand with your IT policy to help protect your business from social media hacks and avoid being locked out of your accounts.

Your company social media policy should also work hand in hand with your HR policy to dictate how a staff breach of policy should be dealt with. This is increasingly important as it becomes more and more common for employees to associate themselves with their company online. This can be done in a number of different ways. It could be by listing where they work in online profiles, commenting or posting either directly or indirectly about work on social media and being tagged or mentioned in any content relating to the company.

A social media policy should detail what constitutes improper use and specify that social media breaches are not limited to within business hours on business premises. Improper use can include anything that could damage the reputation of the company, its clients or suppliers, disclosing confidential company or client information as well as bullying, harassment and unlawful discrimination.


You can call the media, libel and privacy solicitors at Slater and Gordon on freephone 0800 916 9052 or contact us online.

Steve Kuncewicz is a business advisory lawyer with specific expertise in media and social media law.

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