Monday, September 21, 2009

Pain Free Social Media Policy Development

Okay, so your bank decides to jump into social media. Maybe it was after reading The Community Banker's Guide to Social Network Marketing (shameless plug). Or maybe it was after reading one of many mainstream news articles. Regardless, one of the most important steps will be to develop a formal written social media policy that will guide all of the bank's social media interactions. This policy will state the do's and don'ts, employee responsibilities, management's expectations, acceptable uses of social media and much more. The objective is to provide employees with formal written guidance regarding the expectations for the use of social media.

I'm a long-time banker. I'm also a former regulator (OCC) and a Big Four consultant. In my career I have had on thousands of occassions to either read or create policies. After about the third time I figured there had to be a better way to create new policies. That's when I learned the art of cut and paste.

When I was a regulator one of the first things I did when walking into a bank was to ask for the bank's policies and procedures - especially for those activities that were new to the bank. The absence of formal written policies gave me carte blanche to include a nice little notation on the report of examination.

When comparing the many banks I examined and consulted for, I have found very little is unique. Whether it is mortgage lending, commercial lending, new accounts, etc., the big picture is often the same. As such, the bulk of policies are largely identical.

Of course, as we all know, the devil is in the details. Social media policies and practices may differ from organization to organization as each organization's needs, risk tolerances and desired outcomes vary. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that every policy is customized to the bank. Without a customized policy, bank employees will be lost, defeating the purpose for the policy in the first place. Also, regulators will have a reason to criticize.

But differences in policies and practices does not mean re-inventing the wheel. Instead, the policy development process should take into consideration as much of the body of knowledge available (other social media policies) to identify best practices. One person tackling a problem may yield a good result but many tackling the same problem will provide different points of view that may produce an even better result.

So where do you find this body of knowledge. Well, HERE. The Social Media Governance Web site provides over 80 sample social media policies. I recommend you browse the various policies to identify what should and should not be included in your bank's policy. The advantage of reviewing other policies is that you are often reminded of items that may have been overlooked. In a sense, having the benefit of reviewing a set of policies allows you to identify features you need, those you don't and those you haven't yet considered.

Writing policies is often the worst part of every product/service development project. But it is also the most important. Having the benefit of other's efforts provides an invaluable benefit. So now you have no excuse for being written up for a lack of a social media policy.


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