What makes Social Standard Operating Procedures (SSOP) different is more the how-to aspect of the position. What is the baseline of responsibility of the position. This also sets valuable performance indicators for your HR staff to measure the talent of a given employee. And much like all situations have a sliding scale, it gives everyone involved in the process a barometer by which to work by. I will say the caveat to a SSOP is that there are so many variables to digital social communications, that you cannot fire someone for a mistake. You must learn from it and use said moments as a way to grow as a company. The industry, in some instances, is simply too nebulous to define as fact.
Let's outline what you should have in your Social Standard Operating Procedures:
1. Define digital communications
Defining digital communications is setting expectations for your audience that they can expect from you. Your social teams should be real people to your brand advocates. Introduce them, make them real people. They will be the face to blog posts, public speaking and in some case even PR hits. They should be positive, upbeat and incredibly detail (with as much of a trail as possible) oriented. If they need to control, block or resolve a position 'off the grid' - via email or a telephone call, having documentation why will go a long way.
2. Social Responsibility
This simply is that your social media director or department will act in a matter becoming the standards of your business. Have this referenced in your employee handbook as well as an addendum. This allows your customer to understand what you can and cannot communicate on. This is also an homage to the legal attributes of your company and protected information.
Side Note: Do your best to get this material vetted by legal but keep them out of social communications. If you spend too much time trying to cover your ass, you will never attend to the customers’ issues and will pay for it with social backlash.
3. Social Expectations
Realize that social media is second only to phone and email for communication purposes. Social Media "touch points" are as important to respond to as someone calling you on the phone. To a social growing populous this is their primary means to customer service, and expect the same instant gratification that comes with calling or emailing a company.
Side Note: More importantly - not responding to a support call can immediately alienate a once-trusted consumer. And if this should occur you can do the math, when the average Facebook user has 130 friends (Twitter 75) awaiting a response as well from you. You're not simply supporting this one issue, you're being judged by that individual’s social network.
4. Crisis Communications
Put organic plans in place to tackle crisis moments. What's important to remember is each situation is unique and you will not have a game plan for everything that comes your way. You must be yourself and make the best decisions for the customer and company simultaneously. This is important too because you (the social professional) are not a building or a product. You're a person. You can help, energize and at times even make mistakes. Trust me, sometimes someone just saying "I'm sorry…let's see what we can do to resolve X" is all that is necessary to combat a major brand catastrophe.
Side Note: Also the USMC says in their SSOP, "Take certain risks with negative public statements and allow for a public forum (your fans) to defend your position." This is important to remember, as your fans and advocates can, and often will do more for a crisis than any one single department. Army of one? Not anymore.
5. "Social Abandonment"
Social Abandonment is the lack of attention to your social accounts and is no better than not answering the phone at your own business. Each and every client, customer and audience member that takes the time to reach out must be considered an opportunity to engage.
6. To train or to hire
One of the worst things that companies do are look for people that "have a Facebook account" and make them head of social media for a company. Just because someone has a car doesn't mean they should be driving a semi-tractor trailer full of your finest customers around a mine field. Therefore, if you wish to hire from within insure that they understand the expectations of the position with the material that is outlined in this document; and that they are willing to train aggressively to understand all the social media technologies, how they are interconnected and what the best tool for the job is.
If you decide to hire, you must train that person to understand your company from top to bottom in order for them to best speak to your audience. Just because he or she can drive the semi doesn't help if they don't know what they're carrying and its perceived value. And of course with all things, you get what you pay for when hiring a social media position. Most of them like free Red Bull too.
Some samples of when it all goes to hell: