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Why Your Business Needs a Social Media Policy

Sometimes, the internet can feel like the Wild West.

Understanding our tools, planning ahead, and having procedures in place can help. That’s why your business needs a social media policy.

What’s a social media policy?

A social media policy is a crucial tool for any organization that uses social media.

In fact, it’s a crucial tool even if your organization doesn’t use social media. Because your employees almost certainly do: 72% of Americans use at least one social media platform. Yet 63% of Americans say their employer has no social media policy.

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Think of your social media policy as an online code of conduct. It makes clear how you expect others to engage with your business online, especially your employees. This may sound limiting, but it can actually be empowering.

When you know what to do and how to act, others have the tools to represent your business to the best of their abilities. It can also help you avoid disaster and legal risks. Establish your policy early instead of when you’re in the middle of a crisis.

Your policy can be short (and there are many guides and examples online for you to build upon). It should also be a living document. Your business is going to change, and so will technology available. Is the existing policy still working? Is there a new platform that needs to be accounted for? Make sure you keep checking in that it is up-to-date.

Make your policy straightforward and available.

A clear, concise policy is best. Share the policy with new employees as they join your business.

Additionally, make the policy available to your web community. This is what will help commenters and followers know how to interact with your business online — and know what counts as crossing a line.

Document everything.

If you start having issues with someone online, take note. Perhaps that first infraction simply raises a red flag. If you decide to have a “three strikes and you’re out policy,” you’ll need to track strikes.

Hopefully, it doesn’t get to the third strike. But if it does, you’ll have the documentation needed to back up any further action.

Discover brand advocates.

When you monitor your business online, you get to discover your fans. This is one of the pleasures of engaging with your online community. When we think about policies and rules, sometimes we think about “don’ts” more than “dos.”

As you look around your social channels, take note of the positives. When you engage with your brand advocates, you encourage a conversation, and they feel even more a part of your world.

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Craft Your Out-of-Office Email

Yellow sticky note with to-do list reading "To do: Relax, take it easy, have fun"

Rejuvenation is especially important in marketing.

Fast-paced environments, exciting challenges, and frequent deadlines can be both thrilling and stressful. Even if marketers are happy in their industry, they can still feel overloaded and in need of a break.

Yes, you can and should take a vacation. Time off can help you reduce stress and feel refreshed. Vacations are vital for our mental health and wellbeing.

But what does a break look like for today’s digital marketers? With communications seamlessly integrated into our personal and professional lives, unplugging can take on different meanings.

Do you still check email on vacation? Do you log off Twitter but stay on Instagram? Do you try a digital detox and vow to take a break from it all?

Whatever level you choose, there are apps to help you unwind—and ways to put your apps to work while you take time to play.

Mark Your Calendar

Of course, before you go anywhere, you have to prepare for your trip.

Be clear with coworkers about when you will be gone and how much digital access you will have. Mark your shared calendar so you have a visual reminder of when you will be gone. Adjust timelines to accommodate your schedule. Set an automatic reply message for your work email so any incoming messages don’t go unrecognized.

A simple out-of-office message should cover the basics. Share the dates you will be unavailable and if there’s someone else a person should contact in your absence.

Direct Folks to Your Work

If you feel fancy, your out-of-office message is also an opportunity to generate interest in your skills or company.

While folks wait for your return, you can direct them to a colleague for help or even direct them to check out examples of your recent work. Also, remember to include necessary contact information. You can even direct folks trying to get in touch to your social channels.

Just because you’re away from your email doesn’t mean you stop communicating. An away message is an unexpected opportunity to surprise and delight. Invite potential clients to catch up with your work and get a feel of who you are and how you might help them upon return.

Avoid Digital Overload

When it comes to breaking from our devices, we may stand in our own way. But if you decide to check out of the office without checking out of all your apps, there are ways to monitor your usage.

Before you leave for vacation, set rules for yourself that will help you stay away from the office virtually. Uninstall your work email account from your phone. Turn off push notifications.

You can still upload your favorite vacation pics to Facebook, just steer clear of LinkedIn. Use apps like Swarm to discover new places, but turn WhatsApp on silent.

Avoid the digital overload and you’ll have a more refreshing time away from the office.

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Add Emojis for Fun, Creative Connections

Yellow emoji "thumbs up" character with yellow starburst around it

Does your business speak emoji?

There are more than 3,000 emojis at our fingertips⁠—and we are making use of them!

Facebook statistics show an average of 5 billion emojis are sent each day on Facebook Messenger. And as of mid-2015—a few years after emoji keyboards became standard for most Apple and Android users—half of all Instagram comments included an emoji.

It’s true: Millions of social-savvy communicators use emojis in creative ways on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. These small digital icons of faces, symbols, objects, and more make up a unique language.

For most businesses, adding emojis to your social media messages can help your business stand out. They can also encourage people to engage with you. Emojis can make a business feel more personable.

However, it can be difficult to incorporate emojis in a natural way when you’re representing your business. While your thumbs might be emoji-happy in your personal life, you might not know how to use them for your business profile.

For example, organizations and businesses with a more serious mission may want to stay away from emojis. At the very least, you should use them sparingly. You don’t want to upset clients or the public by accidentally creating a lighthearted message when the tone should be somber.

We enjoy using emojis and gifs on our social media channels. Why? Because it is engaging and fun.

Here are a few tips on adding emojis to your social media messaging:

  • If you aren’t sure what’s best, or if you generally want a cohesive look for your social feeds, make a guide of all your brand-approved emojis.
  • Think of emojis as an elevator pitch. Your audience should get the message—fast. One or two symbols should let people know exactly what value you’re bringing to them.
  • Use emojis to catch attention. Drop in a few to spice up your posts, but don’t leave readers guessing your message by leaving out relevant information and links. You can still use hashtags and images, too.
  • An emoji can help when you don’t have an image, or play off a photo to create a clever theme. Add an emoji arrow directing folks to “click here” or “look up.”

Think of adding in emojis as using all the tools in your toolbox, but not overdoing it with any one option. They create visually interesting messages that convey emotions sometimes better than words and add a human element.

Emojis remind your audience there are people behind your accounts, and that encourages engagement. As always, the more engagement you can encourage, the better you will do overall.

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Your Inbox Knows Your Birthday

How can you make your digital well wishes feel authentic?

People love to feel special. Keeping track of birthdays and milestones can be a special way to stay in touch with customers and clients.

Coupons, discounts, and freebies are great birthday perks. But as it becomes easier to send automated greetings—and more sites and shops opt to fill inboxes with digital hellos—it can start to feel impersonal.

Under the headline “Happy Birthday! Just Don’t Open Your Inbox” the New York Times reported on the growing “feeling of malaise surrounding one’s birthday in the digital age.” Experts and email receivers alike commented that too many messages can lead to a disconnect between business and audience.

“When we’re receiving birthday messages, that’s a personal thing. We feel like we’re seen and we mean something to that person,” Dr. Nicole Beurkens, a clinical psychologist at Horizons Developmental Resource Center in Caledonia, Mich., says in the article. “The tone of that really changes if we start to feel like the other person is just using that for themselves. That doesn’t feel good.”

So, what can we do as marketers to celebrate with our people without overstepping?

Keep it on the small scale

Small businesses have a chance to shine when it comes to personalized greetings. After all, you know your clients and customers. You see them in person and interact regularly.

By being small, you likely already have a closer relationship with your audience. When you send that happy birthday email, you can visualize the person on the receiving end. Your regulars will enjoy a little recognition from their favorite local stop.

Focus on being authentic and unforgettable

While there’s still room to wish clients and customers a happy birthday, it’s understandable marketers may be worried about overstuffing inboxes. Don’t forget your email best practices. Know your audience. Create a strong subject line.

But, if you are concerned your email will get lost in the shuffle, think of an alternative. Include an automatic birthday perk in a members program clients can claim by speaking up at the register. Invite customers to opt into a birthday rewards program. Switch from digital greetings to a more personalized print greeting.

Save the birthday greetings for one day a year

Instead of sending out messages for everyone, invite everyone to celebrate at once. Turn “happy birthday to you” into “happy birthday to us.” Invite clients to join you in marking your business anniversary.

During the month, week, or day of your anniversary, introduce specials, discounts, and more. Include members and regulars on an anniversary party, so they feel like part of the family. Let your customers and clients know that inviting them in on your special day is what growing another year older is all about.

Whatever you decide, do it with your own personal style. When you stay true to your brand, you stand out from the crowd.

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Everything Is Shareable Online. Or Is It?

Text of "all rights reserved?" in typewriter font overtop three red question marks

Let’s take this back to the college lecture halls: Do you understand copyright law?

We don’t mean to scare you! In fact, learning about the dos and don’ts of copyright might be easier than you think. It’s definitely important.

Online, it can feel like everything is free, accessible, shareable, and oh-so easy to use. But there are times when just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should.

For example, it’s acceptable to download content for your own personal offline viewing…but it’s not acceptable to do that if you are trying to make money off someone else’s content. It’s also acceptable to add free music to the videos you make…but that music needs to be free of royalties.

Are you following along?

Copyright may seem annoying at times, but it’s here to protect you and people like you—aka creatives.

Think about the last time you worked long hours, trying over and over again to generate something new, something memorable. If you make something, you want to share it, but not at the cost of losing it.

To understand copyright is to be a better creative.

When you have the understanding of something, you can reach new heights in your own work. But you don’t need to go to school and earn a degree to brush up on the meaning of fair use and work for hire.

Check out this series of 12 videos from William W. Fisher III, the WilmerHale Professor of Intellectual Property Law at Harvard University.

Don’t worry! They are free and available for you to access under a Creative Commons license. What’s that? Find out by heading to Fisher’s lectures.

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Say Yes to Creative Balance

How to keep saying yes without overwhelming your to-do list.

Creative people love to say, “Yes.” Saying “yes” can lead to unexpected opportunities and amazing collaborations. Saying “yes” can open doors to new connections and projects.

Working from a place of “yes” means we are inspired by the work, and that enthusiasm empowers us to pursue ideas and implement innovative solutions. When we keep ourselves open, we gain experiences and potentially discover talents and passions we didn’t know we had.

However, the more there is to do, the easier it can be to feel overwhelmed. If you find yourself wanting to agree to an opportunity, but know you may not have the bandwidth, it’s okay to ask for help. You cannot pour from an empty cup.

Be open about workload and expectations

“Only do what only you can do. I encourage leaders to make this their personal mantra,” leadership consultant and author, Erika Andersen, shares in Forbes.

It can be exciting to take on a task, or perhaps an old habit, but that doesn’t make it an efficient use of your time. Don’t let the workload suffer by blindly saying, “Yes.” Think about what you can and should do.

Do you want to meet on Wednesday, but it would be easier to meet on Friday? Are you able to take on the additional project, but aren’t sure if it should be prioritized above your existing work? Speak up.

Become stronger through partnership

Writing in the Ask Entrepreneur column, serial entrepreneur, Jen Groover, recommends categorizing and prioritizing tasks, both small and big ones, to figure out the best way to tackle your to-do list.

Once organized, take a step back and think about your natural strengths. When we partner with others, we become stronger together and can work smarter.

“Sharing responsibility and handing over certain tasks can be a scary thing,” Groover writes. “But keep in mind how much farther you’ll be able to grow. I always tell entrepreneurs, 100 percent of $100 is still only $100. But 20 percent of $100,000 is a heck of a lot more. So if you can find someone who has the strengths to your weaknesses and vice versa, you’re going to have more to share.”

Also, remember that so many of us are surrounded by talent. Perhaps you’re intrigued by the project but know of a team member who would be a great fit to lead the effort. Make the connection. Taking a step back so someone else can take a step forward is its own reward.

Help yourself and offer to help otherscome stronger through partnership

“People are more inclined to want to help those who’ve attempted to help themselves first,” writes Alice Boyes, author of The Healthy Mind Toolkit and The Anxiety Toolkit. “When asking for help, briefly explain what you’ve tried independently. That way the person from whom you’re requesting help knows you’ve tried to figure out your problem for yourself before requesting help.”

This could be as simple as Googling a solution on your own, double-checking a request or going back to your notes. Ask for help smartly, and give your own help freely. “If you’re known as a helpful person around your office,” Boyes adds, “folks will want to help you when the time comes.”

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