You know it’s critical, but how do you actually impart the policy to your team? Here are five ideas to help your accounting firm tackle that all-important social media training you keep hearing about.
Creating and enforcing a sound social media policy is an absolute necessity. You’ve heard the horror stories and seen the advice everywhere, including right here. You know your firm must have one. But how do you put it into practice and convey to your employees that you’re serious about it? The policy does no good if it sits on a shelf in a binder and your people cavort on their various profiles with no regard for the standards you’ve so carefully constructed.
Large companies are ahead of the curve on this, with most having a dedicated training and monitoring program in place. Smaller firms have the same needs, but may lack the resources to devote to this critical area of staff training. While you can’t necessarily hire a team with the sole focus of social media training, you can still communicate the importance of your policy and let your staff know you mean business. Jeanne Meister offers strategies for conveying the message to everyone in your firm in an article on Forbes.com. Though some of her tips are specific for large companies, your smaller firm can still follow them and reap the benefits.
- Begin at the beginning. Make a discussion of your social media guidelines and your commitment to it part of the hiring process. New hires need to know what you expect from the very first day, and incorporating it into their introduction to the firm emphasizes its importance.
- Give your social media policy an identity. Go ahead and create a branded program that ties the policy to the firm. Even if you’re small, the Social Media ABCs of XYZ CPAs are relevant rather than pretentious. The program needs a distinct manager who can oversee training and handle questions. Create a space where conversation and ongoing analysis is welcome. Letting your team have a policy-based community will add to their confidence and comfort level. It’ll boost firm cohesion as well through the intergenerational shared challenges of policy-compliant online behavior.
- Details, details. Your guidelines have to deal with specifics, right down to the minutiae of tweets, posts and comments. How should firm-related news be identified? Is it all attributed to the personal brands of staffers or should it be accompanied by a standardized notification that this is the firm’s voice? Exactly what’s okay and isn’t? Most people want to do the right thing by the firm, but social media encompasses so many shifting gray areas and so much new ground that it’s only fair to give explicit instructions on an ongoing basis.
- Offer recognition for success. Large companies are adding a gamification aspect to their social media policies to increase incentive, with badges and other visible symbols of adherence to the policy. That might not be appropriate for smaller firms, but the concept still applies. Everyone likes to be noticed and rewarded for a job well done. Find a way to give positive reinforcement and firm-wide acknowledgment to those who make the effort to boost the firm’s profile and meet your goals in their social media communications.
- Maintain your momentum. Social media gains new angles and added importance every day, so this isn’t something you can teach once and walk away from. Make the training program community (see above) a permanent resource for sharing success and challenges. Active social media users will continuously find that some things are working better than others. They’ll also run into new situations that inspire questions and probably want to share some lessons learned from time to time. Your policy needs to welcome this feedback and adapt to its messages – a social media policy can’t be set in stone. The fluid nature of the medium means that training has to become part of the firm’s ongoing activity, even for old hands.
Social media is a brave new world for your firm, and there’s a lot to be gained. Adding training and discussion of your social media guidelines isn’t just an additional responsibility – it’s an opportunity to learn more about the effectiveness of your marketing, your audience and your firm. Follow these guidelines and welcome the journey. You’ll like where it takes you.