Coca-Cola, one of the most recognizable brands in the world, understands the importance of managing relationships with their fans and consumers – particularly on social media. The company embraces the fact that consumers have thousands of conversations surrounding Coca-Cola each day, and has laid out a social media policy with a detailed set of Online Social Media Principles a to help guide its employees through “the new frontier of marketing and communications.”
According to the company document:
“These Online Social Media Principles have been developed to help empower our associates to participate in this new frontier of marketing and communications, represent our Company, and share the optimistic and positive spirits of our brands.”
Coca-Cola’s document includes seven shared values to live by, five core values specific to its involvement in online social media, five guidelines for associates’ personal social media behavior, and 10 principles guiding the behavior of certified Coca-Cola online spokespeople. These lists clearly spell out the Coca-Cola’s expectations of both personal and corporate communication in the social space, and encourage employees to be personable yet mindful of their ultimate representation of the company.
Coca-Cola’s success on social media (64,000,000 Facebook fans and 717,000 Twitter followers) is likely due in part to the autonomy the company places in its social media representatives. Coca-Cola encourages its employees to engage and explore in social media to the extent they feel comfortable, and reminds employees to “have fun, but be smart.”
“The best advice is to approach the online worlds in the same way we do the physical one – by using sound judgment and common sense, by adhering to the Company’s values, and by following the Code of Business Conduct and all other applicable policies.”
The advice and expectations are fair and relaxed, while still maintaining the importance of ultimately being a brand ambassador on social media. While there is a distinction between personal and company-representative communication on social media, Coca-Cola recognizes that the line is blurring, and that employees must be mindful of how their online presence could be representative of the company. For that reason, it was a wise decision to include expectations for personal usage within the company’s overall social media policy.
More importantly, Coca-Cola has laid out several guiding principles for its Certified Online Spokespeople. The guidelines are as follows:
- Be certified in the Social Media Certification Program.
- Follow our Code of Business Conduct and all other Company policies.
- Be mindful that you are representing the Company.
- Fully disclose your affiliation with the Company.
- Keep records.
- When in doubt, do not post.
- Give credit where credit is due and don’t violate others’ rights.
- Be responsible to your work.
- Remember that your local posts can have global significance.
- Know that the Internet is permanent.
Of that list, #6, #9 and #10 are the most prominent and relevant to recent times. We’ve seen (too often) brands fail to think of the larger-scale implications of the material they post, especially surrounding sensitive events and issues. By reminding spokespeople of the implications a global company can have through its social communication, Coca-Cola is aiming to avoid any significant mishaps or controversy.
Overall, the social media policy for Coca-Cola seems to cover all of the company’s bases – from personal to professional communication by employees. This type of management style seems to be effective in allowing employees the ability to be themselves, while still maintaining expectations and company guidelines. Coca-Cola provides a social media policy that could serve as an example to other brands, the result of which has led to clear success in the social realm.