Episode 129 - Social media policies by Alexis Bushnell.

Melanie

The Monday Morning Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Esther of IPA Group, bringing premier online promotion to your business,

 

Esther

and Melanie of Stomp Social Media Training, who empowers business owners to manage social media and marketing for themselves.

 

Melanie

Hey, guys. And we're so glad you've actually come back to us again. Phew. So today I have the absolute pleasure of introducing you to Alexis Bushnell of Social Media for Humans. We did have a chat about that rather extensively, and she's currently based in St Athens, Wales. Apparently, nine months is not long.

 

Alexis

So what is time? What is time?

 

Melanie

She moved from France nine months ago and she's like, Oh, I haven't been here long. It's been nine months. Yeah, it's been a while.

 

Alexis

Literally grown a whole new human in that time.

 

Melanie

Yeah, you could have done. So we brought you on today not to talk about growing humans, but to talk about social media policies. And this is something we've actually had real trouble finding somebody who would talk to us a bout this. So when we came across you, Alexis, we grabbed you with both hands.So tell us what made you, first of all, go into the sphere of social media policies.

 

Alexis

Well, social media, weirdly, I'm not a very sociable person.I've been one of those because I'm a very sociable in person, I feel like I getmy social kick online. And so as social media became more and more prevalent, Ijust made sense. I just became that social media person who was on it forpersonal, and then I was a blogger as well. So I went into social media thatway and did training through sort of blogging events and stuff like that, andthen just kind of naturally went that way. And here we are.

 

Melanie

So what kind of businesses would you work with, Alexis?

 

Alexis

Mainly I now work with neurodivergent business owners,especially small business owners who are in that situation where it's like alot of the generic advice is very much just like, we'll just post more, createmore content, do more of this beyond more platforms, and they're just like,"Yeah, but no". So I very much work with people to go, okay, well,where are your people? Maybe just be there. Just do that content that you enjoydoing, and let's figure out how to make that work for you.

 

Melanie

It wouldn't be that vastly different from people who aren'tneurodivergent, surely.

 

Alexis

There are definitely people who are shy or just overwhelmed,easily overwhelmed, just super busy. But I do find, I think because I'mneurodivergent myself, I've kind of grown a network of other people who areneurodivergent, and therefore there is that understanding of, like, I thinkpeople feel safe to be like, well, I can't do this because my brain justdoesn't do that that way. Whereas there is often that fear if you're workingwith somebody who isn't neurodivergent or doesn't really understand what itmeans that if you say that it's like, well, just try harder or just do it. Idon't understand why. So, yes, I will happily work with neurotypical people aswell.

 

Melanie

Okay, so at the end of the day, the only thing that'sdifferent is the thought process. Everything else is exactly the same.

 

Alexis

Yeah.

 

Melanie

So, social media policies. Now, we did talk very brieflybefore we kicked off and one of the things we mentioned was maybe it's notabsolutely necessary for a sole trader, for somebody on their own to have asocial media policy, unless it helps a disordered personality, perhaps, butwhen do you feel people would benefit from having a social media policy Alexis?

 

Alexis

I actually think it is really helpful, even if it's justyou, because I think especially with social media, there is a real tendency tosee that something is trending and be like, just go along with stuff and oh,everybody's talking about this, everyone is using this type of emoji,everybody's using this gif at the moment, everybody is posting this meme and tojust go with it. And there are so many times that people then go, that doesn'treally represent me. I didn't want to share that. Now that I'm thinking aboutit, now that it's out there and I'm realising that there is some time betweensort of the being caught up in the momentum and actually thinking about whetherthat aligns with my business and how I want to talk about things or people orwhatever. And so I think it is really helpful to have a policy or some kind ofdocument, even if it's super simple, when it's just you that's like, here arethe things that I am happy to talk about on social media. Here is the way thatI want to talk about things on social media. These are things that areabsolutely off limits and I will not talk about because I don't feelcomfortable. So that when there is stuff trending or all of your network arelike, let's collaborate on this thing and it's actually not something that youwant to be sharing or it doesn't align with the way you want to talk about thatthing, you have a document, you can go, okay, no, this is not actually whereI'm going with this. This is not right for me. So that you are less likely tofind that you've done the thing, you've posted the thing and then you have theregret.

 

Melanie

Yeah, there's very much the regret, isn't there? It couldkind of be like a checklist, couldn't it, for sole traders? And I guess that'swhere like a brand persona and colours the language, that can all be sorted outbefore you get started.

 

Alexis

Yes.

 

Melanie

Well, should be sorted out before you get started,hopefully.

 

Alexis

But yeah, it doesn't have to be a really long, complicateddocument that's like multiple pages and checklists and forms and what have you.It can literally be like bullet points. Like will talk about these things,won't talk about these things. This is the tone of voice. This is what I wantpeople to feel when I post my things, stuff like that. That just keeps you ontrack because the other thing with especially creating content yourself foryour own business, it's so easy to just if you're having a bad day, you'relike, oh, I just got to get this rant out. Maybe you don't really want thatrant to be associated with your business. Maybe that's not the vibe that youare trying to build on your social media, but because you've not got somethingthat's like, okay, yeah, ranting is fine, we get it, but not over here.

 

Melanie

Yeah, that's one thing actually never ever complain as yourbusiness on a personal thing like the electricity bill or bad service on yourcar or that sort of stuff, because I have seen it.

 

Alexis

Yeah, but it's easily done. We are human. We get frustrated,things happen in our day and we think, whatever, I'm just going to get off mychest. This is relatable content, but it might not be the relatable contentthat you actually want associated with your business and your brand. So itdoesn't have to be super complicated. Of course, once you start working with ateam, you're outsourcing stuff, it needs to be detailed enough that you cangive it to somebody else and they know what you mean. Whereas if it's just you,you probably know what you mean. You've probably used your own language, you'veshortened stuff, it's key things. Maybe you've missed out words, there's nofull sentences, but you know what you mean. If you are then outsourcing, itdefinitely needs to be fleshed out a little bit. And I would say when you firststart outsourcing, it can be really helpful to initially actually have aconversation with whoever you are outsourcing to to make sure it makes sensebecause that is also going to give you the feedback on how to change it.Because we see things in our own way and when we just deliver a document tosomebody and expect them to see it with our eyes and our history and our braingenerally doesn't go especially well. So it can be helpful initially to havethat discussion with the person you're outsourcing to and adjust your documentaccordingly so that when you then are outsourcing again or you bring somebodyelse onto the team, you know, it's not just, oh, this makes sense to me. It'sactually like this is understandable by other people too.

 

Melanie

You've touched on some very valid points there actually.Because when I was thinking social media policies, I was actually only thinkingof it in house. But absolutely outsourcing becomes an issue as well. I supposeit's almost easier when you're doing in house because they very quickly pick upthe ethos and the personality of the person who previously posted. But whenyou're outsourcing, you don't have that sort of relationship normally.

 

Alexis

Yeah. And I think if you're in house as well, there islikely to be you pick up things from people you're working around. If you'rebeing mentored or trained by somebody as well, you're new starting, you'regetting a lot more input from that. So it is very, very different. But I dostill think you need a useful, clear policy if you are in house, becauseeverybody is going to interpret things in different ways and so it does need tobe written in a way that leaves little to the imagination.

 

Melanie

Okay, so you've got this idea that, you know, you need asocial media policy because you've got maybe three or more staff or you've gota couple of staff, you're the person, the owner may be doing it, and your staffhave shown absolutely zero interest in taking over. So now it's time tooutsource. So you start writing down a draft. We've outlined a few headershere, a few bullet points, but how in depth does your social media policy needto go, Alexis? Is there a template that you offer or is there any suggestionsthat you can provide that will help people really get started down this road?Because it sounds quite complex.

 

Alexis

I think it's as complex as you want it to be and it willdepend on each business because if you are offering multiple different things,you have multiple different target markets, you're trying to cover differentlocations and areas, it's going to be a lot more detailed because you've got alot more things to think about versus if you're a local business with onespecific target market and one specific sort of signature thing that you offer,along with a few other things that are related, you have much less to considerbecause what it comes down to really is understanding and making sure thatwhatever is in that policy ensures that people creating the content, peopleengaging on behalf of the business are actually doing it in a way that is inline with whatever the business stands for, is what it comes down to. So thatyou are not getting somebody going out and engaging in Facebook groups orTwitter chats on behalf of the business and getting into arguments aboutpolitics that you do not want to be associated with, or sharing their thoughtson a competitor's ice cream that you really don't want to be causing morearguments about, so that people know exactly what's expected and that you areconstantly adding to whatever brand values you already have, rather than sortof just hit and miss whatever. Just get out there, put some content out, dosome engagement, get it done.

 

Melanie

So I guess one of the ways to do this is to perhapsinitially get posts or tweets approved prior to unleashing them.

 

Alexis

Yes, I think it could help if you are working with, ifyou're outsourcing especially, and obviously if you're bringing someone in towork closely with them and also have them have a look at previous contentthat's gone out, because that can really help to give a more sort of holisticidea of what you've been doing, what the tone of voice is, what the feel of thecontent is as a consumer, which can then help them to create content which isalong those lines too. So if you already have content that's gone out,absolutely give the new person a look at all of that historical content andexplain, if you can. Like, this is why I used this image and these colours onthis one, but I used this image and these colours on this one. This is why Ichose to use these words in the caption and I would never use these words, thisis why we use these set gifs, or we only use these emojis. These are sort ofthe emojis.

 

Melanie

You've got to even be careful with gifs, don't you?

 

Alexis

Yes, and I think the other thing is to remember that youmight forget things and there might be a social media sort of PR disaster. Howyou respond to that is what makes the difference. It's okay to have thatmistake, but ensure that you learn from it and adjust your policy at the time,rather than think, okay, we're just going to sort of crisis manage now, andthen it becomes this sort of thing that never actually changes the policy, it'sjust like, oh yeah, we should probably change that at some point. Like do itstraight away when you're learning, do it.

 

Melanie

I guess a lot of people only tend to think of social mediapolicies when it becomes a disciplinary issue. So the whole point of the socialmedia policy's to avoid that from happening in the first place and to stopcrisis management being something you need to discuss. So is there any examplesthat you can give us, Alexis, where somebody has either got it right orsomebody has got it wrong, in your opinion? When it comes down to social mediapolicy in the workplace.

 

Alexis

I could have done with like, preparation time for this one.

 

Melanie

See, when I think of good PR, because that's ultimately whatwe're looking at here. Guarda checkpoint over here in the Republic is amazingbecause it's obviously very fact-based, but they also have a good laugh. AndDublin Airport as well, absolutely crack you up with some of the comments theycome out with and I'm sure we've all heard the Wendy's personalities and thatsort of stuff, but even they will have social media policies in place wherethey will only be allowed to go so far. But social media policy goes beyondjust customer service, doesn't it?

 

Alexis

Yes, it does. And personally, I have complicated feelingsabout having rules for the way employees use social media because I think to adegree, yes, they are representing your brand, but they are also individualsand I do think we need to have that distinction. And we are not alwaysrepresenting our employer. We are not always on in that way. And I do thinkthat employees and business owners need the space to just be human as well. AndI don't think that extends to being overtly racist or homophobic or whatever.But I do think if somebody has a bad experience with a brand and they tweetabout it from their personal account, I don't think that that should reflect ontheir employer. And I think we do need to kind of relearn that differentiationand allow people the space.

 

Melanie

Well, that's wokeness, itsn't it Alexis, it is people losejobs for comments they've made about something else completely unrelated totheir job. So maybe social media policies should reflect that we will Googlesearch your past for the last ten years before we employ you.

 

Alexis

Yeah, and I think it's very frustrating because what I thinkthe problem is with brands is not that they don't have the right social mediapolicy for their employees or whatever, or that they're not effectivelyresearching their employees. I think it's that they're not prepared to stand bytheir employees and say, look, they're a human, they were having a bad day. Ithappens.

 

Melanie

It does depend on the crime. In fairness,

 

Alexis

Of course.

 

Melanie

Everybody is stupid under the age of 20 frankly.

 

Alexis

It's true. Yes. And I also think we need to be able to say,like, yeah, they said some stuff ten years ago, but now they are activelysupporting a charity that counteracts whatever it was that they were sayingback then. They donate regularly to this place, they do a lot of work. Theysupport maybe like, queer individuals in our institution, in our corporation.People do change. I've said before, I used to be awfully anti feminist. Like,you would not believe it was not a good time. If you looked at my tweets fromback then, you would think very awful things about me. And rightly so. They donot at all reflect anything about me now because I've grown as an individual

 

Melanie

And all of us have. I mean, the only difference between youand I, Alexis, is when I was your age, there was no such thing as Twitter. Ohmy God, I'm old. Social media policies don't have to make or break the brand,though, do they? I see them as flexible toomes of information. Do you agree?

 

Alexis

Yes. They are very much more guidelines, and I think a lotof it is that not seeing them, like you say, as rules, but you need tounderstand the why they're there, because that is what can inform the nuance todecision making of, well, do we go with this gif or do we go with that gif? Becauseif you've just got, like, don't use gifs with this cartoon character in them.Well, why? What if it's somebody else's drawing of that cartoon character? Doesthat count? You can't cover all of the possible types of issues that are goingto come up and decisions that are made. There are too many things. So the ideais to give whoever is creating the content, whoever is doing the engagement forthe brand, whoever is being the sort of voice of the brand an understanding ofwhy those policies are there, what they actually mean, what do they mean forthe language that you want to be associated with the brand and the feel thatyou want to be associated with the brand, the vibe you want to give off? How doyou want other people to feel when they engage with the brand? Because that iswhat actually makes the difference in decision making on which language you useand which colours you use and what image you use and what have you.

 

Melanie

So let's say somebody has reacted badly to a statementthat's been put up by the brand. Now, I know most policies, I'm pretty muchsweeping the board here. I think most people say if you're posting up as abrand you need to put your initials up or something that delineates who you arewhen you're responding. If somebody makes a mistake, is there part of thesocial media policies, maybe they've reacted badly or misunderstood something,it happens? Is there usually a disciplinary process put in place or does itdepend on what it is or how public it was or how is that sort of thingstructured?

 

Alexis

I imagine it depends very much on the business. I would liketo think that more and more businesses are opting for sort of a retraining thanany kind of sort of serious discipline depending on obviously what's happened.

 

Melanie

So it really depends on the type of business. Do you haveany backstories there that you can tell us where it's worked for some businessor different size of businesses or maybe it's here in the UK or Ireland or theUS, anything like that?

 

Alexis

I don't have any stories but I would just like to saygenerally that I would prefer to have more of a retraining process than toimmediately go in with anything disciplinary because I think a lot of the timethese mistakes are people just being human, which happens. And also maybe amisunderstanding of the policy, maybe the policy wasn't clear or it wasn't gonethrough thoroughly enough with somebody, the underlying message of it was notmade clear. And so I do think there is much more use in actually taking thatperson aside and saying like right, okay, when we say this in the policy, whatwe mean is blah blah, blah, blah, rather than going you did a bad thing, you'reawful, never do this again. Exactly. Because it's never black and white. Andthis is something that is again comes back to the idea that they are not justlike firm rules, that it is a guideline to give you some context for what ishappening on social media for that brand. And so I do think that having somecompassion and allowing for, like, retraining of people and just going overthings again and also just building in regular check-ins of like, "okay,we're still going this way with the brand. Does anybody have any questionsabout this?" Rather than going in with like the "oh no, you have ruinedour brand persona forever, we will never forgive you."

 

Melanie

My God, I want to work for you. Wow, you're so reasonable.You're now going down this path of social media policies. How do people startworking this out? Do they normally come to you after they've made some hugebomb drop on their social media or do some people actually come to youbeforehand?

 

Alexis

People don't usually come to me specifically for social media policy. They usually come to me for just like, generally help. Social media is hard help, but it is always a part of that because I think it helps so much to have that guideline in place, even if it is only you, because then you have something to lean back on and when you are, even if you're stuck for creating content and you're like, oh, I have no idea what I want to say today, you can have a look at that policy and be like, okay, this is getting more in to that sort of the vibe in your own brand again and have some ideas come up around it. So it is always a part of what I do with people because I do think it has to be, but it is rarely something people consider also interestingly, very rarely something that I find brands and businesses come to me with when they want me to do their social media. Generally tends to be something that they, like, come to me and like, so will you do my social media? And then I'm like, okay, we discuss it, we organise it. And then I'm like, do you have social media policy, brand guidelines? And they're like, I'm sorry, what now?So, yeah, there is a lot of creating those for people as well.

 

Melanie

Okay. And we haven't even touched on customer charters, which is part and parcel of the social media policy, but it is a slightlydifferent thing and that will be for another podcast. But no, quite seriously, it's a huge quagmire out there. There's so many things that people feel theyneed to do in order to protect their brand and their staff as well. And so it'sso important we've got people like yourself out there that can help us clearthrough the weeds and the disruptions and the mistakes, and that's why it's soimportant to speak to somebody who does this sort of thing, because they'veseen these mistakes happen and how people have come out the other side and howthey've overcome it. So how do we learn more about you, Alexis? Where's thebest place to get hold of you?

 

Alexis

You can either hop over to socialmediaforhumans.club. Or youcan find me mostly on Instagram @Alexisbushnell, but I am elsewhere on theinternet as well.

 

Melanie

She's everywhere.

 

Alexis

Yeah, pretty much.

 

Melanie

Well, thank you so much for your chat today, Alexis. Thishas been really interesting, and I've got to be honest with you. You'veprobably seen me bite my lip a couple of times because you've been saying allthese things. Oh, God, I've only got so much time to do this podcast. But thishas been really interesting, and I hope it's got people starting to thinkoutside of what they do every single day. It's not always about how you'reperceived. It's how you make other people feel. And you can't blame your stafffor doing something wrong if you haven't been checking in on them and makingsure they thoroughly understood in the first place.

 

Alexis

Exactly.

 

Melanie

Well, that's all the time we have for now, guys. Thank youso much for listening, as usual. If you've got any questions, you're welcome tofire them directly to Alexis Bushnell Social Media for Humans Club. Or you cancontact us and we'll pass them over to Alexis. And if you've got any otherquestions or queries or you have a topic that you'd like us to cover, just likethis one, which was only requested a couple of months ago, it's taken us awhile to pin someone down, then do let us know. That's all we have for now.Bye. You can say goodbye you know?

 

Alexis

Okay. Goodbye.