Social Media Policies For Your Company: Internal Policies

Your organization is dipping its toe into the social media pool, but you know you need the right policies in place to set the stage. Where to start?

In this post I’ll outline, at a top level, three internal policies that you should consider when your organization is getting started in social media:

  • Blogging policy
  • Outbound commenting policy
  • Employee guidelines

Step one: review your organization’s existing policies. Your existing employee standards may cover much of what you’re about to read here. If you don’t need to reinvent the wheel, don’t. In that case, consider finding a way to draw attention to those policies – basic training or an aggregation of those policies on your intranet, for example.

I’m not a legal expert, but here are some pointers on the internal social media policies you should consider for your company. Some of these specifically overlap, on the assumption that you may not implement all of them. Edit, tweak, add to your heart’s delight. These are just starting points.

Blogging Policy

With hundreds of millions of blogs out there, chances are that some of your employees have their own blogs outside work. You may have your own official blogs at work, too. 

Your blogging policy lets your employees know where the line is when writing on their own blogs, whether official or otherwise.

Consider covering:

  • Advice - tips on things like transparency, disclosure, human voice, etc – not necessarily rules; rather they’re guidelines for how to approach the medium with a minimum of risk and maximum effect
  • Attribution – state that if employees cite content created by others, they should acknowledge it
  • Copyright – may employees use the organization’s logo, name etc (you may want to restrict their use)? Also consider stating that employees should not violate the copyright of others
  • Ownership – who owns the content of employee blogs, along with the responsibility for the content?
  • Confidentiality - as with the employee guidelines below, consider stating explicitly that employees should not disclose confidential information. It’s common sense, but you should be explicit.
  • Disclaimer – should employees state that they are writing as themselves, not as representatives of the company (unless they are)?
  • Existing policies – note that the blogging police does not supercede other existing policies, and that employees must continue to abide by those.

Outbound commenting policy

Your outbound commenting policy sits between the “blogging policy,” which covers employee social media properties, and the general “employee social media guidelines,” which cover more generic use of tools. The grey area: when representatives and other employees comment on other peoples’ sites.

This policy can be a bit simpler than the other policies here. Consider covering:

  • Do no harm – may employees attack competitors via their comments (which may reflect badly on your company)?
  • Transparency – if commenting on a work-related discussion, should employees disclose their affiliation/conflict of interest?

Also consider the internal process for monitoring and responding to conversations. Which conversations will you engage in? Which ones will you simply listen to? The US Air Force blog response chart is a great starting point for this side of things, though you may want to amend this for your organization.

Employee social media guidelines

As social media tools become more and more ubiquitous, you can’t expect your employees not to use them outside work (or at work, in reality). What’s more, given that they spend most of their waking life at work, it’s tough to expect them to completely avoid talking about it outside the office.

Of all of the policies, these guidelines are most likely to be covered by your existing employee guidelines.

These guidelines serve two purposes:

  1. Protecting your organization by setting out boundaries for what employees can and cannot do online;
  2. Empowering employees to use social media tools by removing doubt over what is “allowed” and what is not.

Consider covering the following in your employee social media guidelines:

  • Boundaries - are employees actively encouraged to engage in conversations regarding the organization (may depend on organizational culture)?
  • Transparency - are employees required to identify themselves as employees when discussing the organization (likely: yes)?
  • Confidentiality - may employees discuss of confidential information (likely: no)?
  • Financials - may employees discuss financial information (likely: no)?
  • Consequences - outline the consequences both for the company and the employee when someone says something ill-advised
  • Work use – is social media use permitted during work hours (may differ depending on whether employees are encouraged to engage in conversations regarding the organization)?

This is part two of a three-part series on social media policies. To get the full story, check out the rest of the social media policy series. A massive tip-of-the-hat to Michael O’Connor Clarke for his thoughts on some of these topics.

What do you think? What is unnecessary and what am I missing?

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