Vesta Digital Blog

5 Rules of Social Media Conduct for Your Company

Posted on: April 8, 2010

DupontRecent changes in FTC guidelines have reinforced the importance of establishing policies to keep your social media and online marketing legal and ethical.

The Federal Trade Commission’s updated Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising, which took effect on Dec. 1, 2009, was a wake-up call to marketers. Those working in the blogosphere and social media realized their actions could attract federal scrutiny if they were not careful.

“It’s now a given that companies should have policies in place to guide both employee and business behavior,” says Gary Spangler, head of eMarketing at DuPont.

But having a policy in place isn’t enough. Marketers need to ensure that everyone follows those rules, or else risk PR or legal trouble. Gary Spangler is on the Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s board of directors and leads WOMMA’s Brands Council. Marketing Sherpa asked him to describe how his team keeps DuPont’s online marketing honest in the eyes of the public — and the law. Here are five rules he suggests to help your company’s social marketing code of conduct:

#1. Work closely with legal and PR teams
Your marketing needs to be transparent and honest with the public. Recent history is loaded with examples of companies whose social marketing ran afoul of public sentiment, such as Wal-Mart’s staged blogs in 2006 and Motrin’s baby-wearing commercial in 2008. Working with your public relations or corporate communications departments will help ensure you are clearly communicating offers and messages, and responding to criticism in the public.

#2. Circulate and publish policy documents
Share guidelines about social media and word-of-mouth marketing with the rest of your company. Share documents with the public, too. Doing this will make your team’s commitment to ethics more transparent. Gary Spangler of DuPont publishes a “core values” document on its website for the benefit of investors, employees and the public. The corporate statement emphasizes integrity and high ethical standards in all areas of DuPont’s business.

#3. Authorize and monitor social marketing
DuPont has tens of thousands of employees, but not everyone is authorized to speak for the company. Before an employee can engage in social media, the team ensures the person has: training, experience, authorization for specific channels and authorization for specific types of messaging. Before giving the green light to employees, the team ensures the person also has the means to effectively use the channel. Blogging, for example, requires writing ability and spare time. Hosting a YouTube channel requires a repository of videos or the means to create one.

#4. Require partners to follow your policies
Your reputation is only as strong as those you work with, so make sure your marketing partners are adhering to the same policies and rules as your in-house team. Before you work with a company, ask for references from past partners and ask them about their policies on transparency and ethics.

#5. Monitor industry news
Missteps, such as Wal-Mart’s and Motrin’s cited above, are recurring themes in marketing news. Monitoring industry news helps you learn from others’ mistakes and successes. These PR disasters are examples of what can happen if your team loses sight of ethics. They also show which tactics can really upset the public.

Click here to read Gary Spangler’s entire article on Marketing Sherpa’s website.


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