Getting Started: Social Media Policies For Your Company

Is your organization looking to get started with “this social media thing?” If so, alongside the thinking you should be doing about culture and top-level support, organizational policies should be one of the things you think about first.

Next week I’m delivering a workshop on “Building A Solid Foundation: Social Media Policies, Best Practices And Ethics For Your Organization” at a conference in Ottawa. Thanks to this, social media policies are at the top of my mind right now.

What will you do when someone “talks” to your representatives online? How will you decide whether and how to respond? What if an employee goes rogue and starts posting confidential information online?

Social media moves quickly, and Google has a long memory. A lack of preparation for events like these can mean a slow response, an escalation of issues, and perhaps even lasting damage.

How should you approach this initial thinking?

We recommend two types of policies – internal and external.

Internal Policies

  • Blogging policy
  • Outbound commenting policy
  • General employee guidelines

Public Policies

  • Comment policy
  • Engagement policy

Over the next couple of posts I’ll take a look at each of these policies in turn, the kind of things you should think about and the kind of things they should cover. Sometimes these things may be covered by your existing employee guidelines; other times you may need to come up with new approaches.

Don’t worry; it’s not that complicated. It just needs a little thought.

If you’ve been around the blog with these tools, am I missing anything in terms of policy types? Which social media policies have you found the most useful?

16 Responses toGetting Started: Social Media Policies For Your Company

  • Hi mate,
     
    Just put one of these together with my Converseon client Telstra – Australia’s largest Telco and ISP.
     
    The policy is here: http://www.nowwearetalking.com.au/opinion/blog-how-the-3rs-empower-telstra-staff-online-225
     
    You can see me having a chat about it in the Australian Financial Review here: http://youngie.prblogs.org/files/2009/05/australian-financial-review-042809.pdf
     
    It’s important to keep it simple, and always remember training plays a huge role in helping people look after themselves. Guidelines better than rules imo.

  • Dave – thanks for taking on this series as it is incredibly important for brands wanting to engage in social media. Thankfully, there are plenty of good “case studies” available for companies looking to create one – IBM, Dell, Sun being three that come to mind.
     
    I know when we were writing ours it was actually much more difficult than I anticipated. The layers of approval took some time, obviously, but trying to balance between the often competing goals of fostering participation and making sure the organization was covered was pretty tough.
     
    I look forward to reading your posts on this topic.

  • You’ve covered lots of ground. Intel has a good general policy that touches on these points.

    In addition, companies should be aware of some of the legal issues with respect to using social media to screen new hires. I touched on this in a post I wrote.

    http://www.gilliebee.com/2009/02/lawyers-all-atwitter.html

    Good luck with your talk!

  • The US Air Force did a really interesting flowchart on social media engagement and response.

    Here’s the link:

    http://blog.techrigy.com/2009/01/us-airforce-flow-chart-rules-of-blogger-engagement/

  • Thanks Bob. I like that structure (even if simple frameworks can’t capture everything) – in fact, I wrote about it a few months back: http://davefleet.com/2009/01/avoiding-the-dark-side-of-social-media/

  • I think you have covered the key areas, well done! One thing I have learned is that we can never take employees’ level of “social media understanding” for granted. For instance, never assume they know confidential mean, literally, with no exception, confidential, not to be shared anywhere, even on their casual twitter updates. (we should all refer back to the Fedex agency story)

    It is particular true in organizations or groups where there is a high turn over (like call centre).

    Also, I think there should be mentioning of employees’ multiple social media IDs. They may already have a personal blog/twitter going.

    Look forward to seeing more of this very important info. Wish I could attend that conference!

  • Celia Sollows
    ago12 years

    Looking forward to following this discussion. Two thoughts.

    1. I agree employees need clear guidelines and some form of training. Employees who are engaged and active with social media WILL advocate for their employer. I think ideally, we give them a resource to go through if they see a discussion or issue online to make sure the right response is provided. Sometimes issues need to be responded to by senior management.

    2. A continuing risk comes from a lack of awareness of how public online content is. A teenager tags a funny picture on her unprotected Facebook profile of Uncle Harvey behaving badly at a family wedding. Uncle Harvey is CFO of A Very Important Company. A new investor googles Uncle Harvey before their first meeting and the picture pops up. There have been well-reported cases in the media where politicians and educators have been literally caught with their pants down. I do wonder if the corporate sector is also at risk here. Interested in your thoughts —

  • I just finished composing a similar document and one of the hardest things to deal with was creating enforceable rules while staying within the spontaneous, inclusive nature of Social Media. I’ll be very interested to see your thoughts.

  • Chamika
    ago12 years

    I work in a federal government agency where we released social media guidelines for staff last year. We based them on the IBM Computing Guidelines – http://www.ibm.com/blogs/zz/en/guidelines.html

  • Hi Dave,
    I’ve been working on a similar series for associations. We’ve been working through a lot of fear and confusion in the space. But I finally came up with a useful summary…

    Trust your peeps to do the right thing, and help them define what the right thing is.

    Looking forward to following your series.
    @lindydreyer

  • This social media policy database contains links to more than 70 social media policies, and you can filter by industry:

    http://socialmediagovernance.com/policies.php

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