In our 2011 Small Business Social Media Study we learned a lot about how  small companies were using social media and what type of  results they were seeing.  This year we also took a closer look at company rules and policy.

It was obvious from the positive results business owners were reporting that there are opportunities for business growth for companies making the leap into social media.  However, there are concerns from business leaders in companies of all sizes about how their employees will represent the company online.   While some larger firms are trying to enforce “social media lock downs” banning access to social media sites, others are developing social media policies.

Does this trend carry over into the small business world?  According to our survey, the overwhelming majority of small businesses do not have formalized policies.  The only exception was among businesses with 25 or more employees.

Although there are few “policies”  we did elicit a number of “rules” from our survey participants:

What business owners say about how they use social media:

  • Keep your business and personal profiles separate.
  • Draw a line between personal profile and company profile.
  • Become an active participant in ‘conversations’ related to your field. Read blogs of your peers, give thoughtful feedback, and retweet the good stuff.
  • Social Media is a part of small business plan and should be used as a relationship building tool.
  • Developing “Word of Mouth” business requires good organization and understanding of the power of geo-metrics.
  • Social media is not a place to sell. That is what your website is for. It is a place to build relationships and then drive traffic where you want it to go.
  • Selling and promotion are generally frowned upon, so patience and willingness to cultivate clients is required.

Social media policy was just one of the topics I discussed during my presentation at BlogIndiana this summer.