Coca-Cola’s Shrewd New Social Media Policy

The buzz about social media and how to leverage it for branding, marketing, advertising, PR, and CRM has been building over the past few years. For the most part, companies have made up their approaches to this new medium as they went along. Many that took the plunge did so by accident, guided by technically-savvy employees who urged their employers to recognize the value of social nets and to become early adopters.

As a result, many companies are just beginning to develop corporate social media policies. According to  Deloitte’s 2009 Ethics and Workplace Survey, “55% of executives admitted that their companies do not have an official policy for social networks — and 22% would like to use social nets, but don’t know how.” Those that were savvy enough to draft initial guidelines are now tweaking them as the playing field shifts.

Coca-Cola just released a new social media policy that’s short and to-the-point, offering common-sense guidelines for its employees. Here are the best parts about Coke’s new policy:

  • It’s only 3 pages. A social media policy should augment existing company policy — you don’t need to create a code of conduct from scratch.
  • Always remember who we are and what our role is in the social media community. “The same rules that apply to our messaging and communications in traditional media still apply in the online social media space; simply because the development and implementation of an online social media program can be fast, easy, and inexpensive doesn’t mean that different rules apply.”
  • Have fun, but be smart. “The best advice is to approach online worlds in the same way we do the physical one — by using sound judgment and common sense.”
  • Transparency is of paramount importance. “Every Web site, “fan page”, or other online destination that is ultimately controlled by the Company must make that fact known to users… We also require bloggers and social media influencers to disclose to their readers when we’re associating with them, whether by providing them with product samples or hosting them at Company events, and we need to monitor whether they are complying with this requirement.”
  • Be conscious when mixing your business and personal lives. “The Company respects the free speech rights of all of its associates, but you must remember that customers, colleagues and supervisors often have access to the online content you post. Keep this in mind when publishing information online that can be seen by more than friends and family, and know that information originally intended just for friends and family can be forwarded on.”

Coke also outlines “10 principles to guide how online spokespeople should represent the company” that everyone should duplicate:

  1. Be Certified in the Social Media Certification Program.
  2. Follow our Code of Business Conduct and all other Company policies.
  3. Be mindful that you are representing the Company.
  4. Fully disclose your affiliation with the Company.
  5. Keep records.
  6. When in doubt, do not post.
  7. Give credit where credit is due and don’t violate others’ rights.
  8. Be responsible to your work.
  9. Remember that your local posts can have global significance.
  10. Know that the Internet is permanent.

Read the 3-page policy in its entirety.

Watch Coke’s Head of Social Media, Adam Brown, explaining it:

Social Media Governance has a database of 114 brands’ social media policies.

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