: Why you need social media guidelines | April 2011 Bright Ideas Blogzine
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Bjloggingj Bistro | March 2011
Why You Need
Social Media Guidelines
...How to craft them
...Sample social media policies
This month, we're addressing a critically important topic: the need for a social media policy. Whether you're a one-person business or you work at a large corporation, a set of guidelines will help you use social media tools more effectively.
Please forward this e-newsletter to others at your workplace who can benefit from this information.
He pointed to the upper righthand corner of his monitor where a blue button displayed the words, "BOSS BUTTON."
He clicked the "Boss Button" and the screen morphed into a fake e-mail box (ostensibly so the person watching games from work can pretend he or she is working when the boss happens by).
While the BOSS BUTTON may be somebody's way of adding humor to the site, there's a lot of truth to it.
Recently, I walked up to the information desk at my bank and noticed the bank employee surreptitiously checking her Facebook profile.
Same thing happened when I walked into my athletic club; the girl behind the desk was shopping online catalogs.
When the employees noticed that I'd noticed what they were up to, they instantly clicked away from the pages they weren't supposed to be on and back to the company's website.
Let's face it; people are networking online during their workday. And some of those people gleefully broadcast work-related gripes or post inappropriate pictures. Search engines index that content, creating a trail of digital dirt that can soil a company's image for years.
Because the lines between personal and professional sharing are blurred, it's imperative to develop social media guidelines so everyone who works at your company understands how to represent themselves and the company online.
Before you craft a social media policy, determine what your company hopes to accomplish through using social media tools.
With those goals in mind, create guidelines that address how employees will use internal media (such as wikis and discussion groups) and external platforms (such as Twitter and LinkedIn), both as a company representative and as an individual.
In addition to a set of general guidelines, you should include guidelines for specific social networks your company uses, or expects to use.
Getting Employees to Buy In
Designing a social media policy must be a team effort. The team should consist of a cross-section of employees, including those most likely to use social media on the company's behalf.
In addition to developing the policy and training others how to use it, team members can monitor comments others make about the company and manage crisis situations.
Because social networks come and go at lightning speed, your policy must leave room for growth and change. At the same time, it must clearly and succinctly outline expectations and responsibilities.
Essential Components of Your Social Media Policy
Aretha Franklin got it right when she sang, "R-E-S-P-E-C-T."
At the heart of every social media policy is one word: Respect.
Every update and comment must demonstrate and command respect. Use self-restraint. Before you post, consider the short-term and long-term implications of your words.
Remove swear words, ethnic slurs, offensive or inflammatory remarks and personal insults. Axe anything that might invade someone's privacy.
When you disagree with others' opinions, respond politely, never denigrating your colleagues, your company, or your competitors.
If you plan to write about the competition, secure the appropriate permissions, and make sure you have your facts straight.
The best way to earn respect is to be honest and transparent. When posting on your company's behalf, use your real name and identify your role at the company. If you publish content on a site outside your company, include a disclaimer that makes it clear you are speaking for yourself and not on behalf of your company.
When you make a mistake, admit it quickly, and apologize.
Ultimately, you are personally responsible for the content you publish on blogs, social networks, or any other form of user-generated media. To avoid getting yourself (or your company) caught in a tangled legal web, you must respect (there's that word again!) confidentiality and proprietary information.
Never publish anything related to private company matters, legal matters or litigation, and never ask a customer for their personal information.
Honor copyright laws, whether that means obtaining permission to reprint an article or resisting the temptation to publish an image you discovered during a "Google Images" search.
The best way to provide value and build a sense of community is to post meaningful comment about your area of expertise. Find out what questions and problems people have about your industry, and figure out a way to help them.
Your policy should also include a section on crisis management. Having an action plan in place will prevent fires from turning into infernos.
The crisis management section of your guidelines should address the following questions:
Who will monitor comments others are making about your company, your products, or your employees?
Will you moderate comments made to your own social networks, and if so, how?
How will you handle social media attacks?
Sing in Unison
Social media guidelines mean nothing if no one in your company uses them. Be sure to include training so employees learn what the guidelines mean.
Give them the opportunity to roleplay specific scenarios, and let them know who they can turn to for support.
Ongoing training and support will ensure that those who promote your brand online are singing the same tune, in unison. And you already know the tune: