A social media policy is an important tool for organizations that empower employees to interact with customers on social networks. Once in place, it helps to guide conversations, reassure employees of guidelines, and prevent misuse of brand accounts.

Your social media policy should be created internally, to account for your organization’s preferences, rules, and customer service policies. Use this guide to create a policy that works for employees and management alike, ultimately helping to improve the customer experience.

1. Take a team approach.

Include members from all relevant departments and levels of the organization to ensure all necessary feedback and suggestions are incorporated into the policy. Have the CEO, human resources, marketing, IT and a legal representative bring their concerns and ideas to the table. Each can offer valuable input and their perspective, resulting in a complete document that works across the company. If possible, ask employees if they have concerns or ideas; while it can be cumbersome to have a lot of input, it helps companies understand how their employees feel about social media. The policy can then proactively address any concerns around privacy, acceptable use or other issues.

2. Be specific.

Ideally, each employee will receive a copy of the social media policy alongside their social media management training. Some of these people may be brand new to the organization; be specific in your expectations and guidelines. Include information about your brand voice and story, acceptable use guidelines, crisis management protocol and other important considerations.

Employees receive a card at Dell that is the same size as our badge upon completion of the social media training and certification course. It has Dell's social media principles listed on it along with contact information for us in case we have questions. Dell has also published our social media policy in it's entirety online.

3. Break guidelines into general use and social networks.

Just as it is important to have a broad policy governing acceptable use and brand voice and message, each social network needs a policy of its own. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ each have their own nuances and your audience may vary across networks. Let employees know how to interact on each social network and include any limitations, posting preferences, or timing specifics. This helps to ensure a cohesive strategy across all social networks with which your company is involved.

4. Train employees on social media policy and allow for questions.

Set aside time to review the policy with employees and ask for feedback. Questions or concerns are better addressed in the beginning than in the moment a customer may be waiting for a response. Empowered employees can be a huge asset for socially connected organizations; give yours the time and tools to succeed in social.

5. Revisit your social media policy monthly.

As your employees use social networks to interact with customers, they may notice trends, efficiencies, or other information that could be valuable to your organization. Encourage an “open door” when it comes to feedback about the policy and revisit it monthly. Make changes and redistribute the policy as required. A number of examples can be found in this list of social media policies from a number of companies large and small.

Having a social media policy in place does not guard against all possible scenarios, but can offer peace of mind and much-needed structure in a space that changes rapidly. Does your company have a social media policy? Share your experiences in the comments!