Did you hear? There’s a social media revolution! The new way to market your business is through online sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter and a dozen more. You can “friend” people, set up fan pages and groups for your business. You can twitter and tweet. You can set up a blog and give the world weekly, daily or even hourly updates about your business, your product, your services. Even your employees are getting into the act, posting to your blog, setting up their own blog, tweeting about the latest event at work and connecting with co-workers and friends on Facebook.

Think about it . . . all you need to do is type your message and hit “post” and, lo and behold, your message has been distributed to hundreds, thousands . . . maybe millions of people around the world. And it doesn’t cost anything . . . or does it?

What if you say the wrong thing? What if you put the wrong information out to millions of people? What if you “post” and then realize you made a mistake?

What happens in Vegas, stays on Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, YouTube and Twitter forever. Setting some legal guidelines for social media can save a lot of time, headaches
and money.

Establish an image for your company and make sure that anyone participating in social media sites related to your business maintains that image — if in doubt, they should ask before posting. While it can be very funny for someone to take a picture of their drunk buddy, it’s not so funny if that picture ends up on your blog or fan page. Assume your customers will look at your social media sites before and during their project.

Set up a plan for what you are going to say on the social media sites and make sure your message is consistent across the various sites and consistent with the policies of your office.

Run your social media marketing plan by your legal department in advance. Although sometimes lawyers can put a damper on things, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Never hit “post” without re-reading your message several times. If it is an important statement about your company or product, have someone else read it also.

Establish policies regarding what kind of messages you’ll accept on your blog, especially if you are asking your employees to post to the site. Someone using four letter words and then identifying themselves as your employee does not paint the best picture.

Limit your employee’s time spent on social media sites, even if it is for your business. These sites are addicting and hours can add up quickly.

Determine what topics about your company can be discussed and what ones are off limits. Clearly communicate this to your employees. Derogatory comments about particular customers somehow find their way back to the customer — and usually before they make their final payment. Derogatory comments about fellow employees can create a lot of dissension in the office.

YouTube is all the rage (for those of you who are living in a cave — these are online videos). Do you really want amateur pictures of your project under construction for someone to review for possible defect claims?

Monitor your social media marketing sites regularly and have a plan in place for removing or dealing with improper or unwanted material.

Put social media policies, procedures, training and monitoring in place before you start your campaign, not after.

Social media is the way that most of the world is communicating these days. You can’t ignore it. You need to understand this new phenomenon, determine how your company is going to embrace it, and set up guidelines to protect your company.

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