If you’re writing your first social media policy, start by clicking here to review more than 175 sample social media policies.
When I look at the who’s who list of companies and their policies, the first thing that comes to my mind is, “Boy, are these complex!” In a regulated industry like insurance, financial services, health care, or education, your social media policy should help you comply with state and federal regulations, so more nuances and rules apply.
But if you’re a smaller organization, you might want to consider these 10 rules for social media participation. They cover most of the bases for employees or contractors who create or contribute to blogs, social networks, virtual works, or any other kind of online community.
- Be yourself. If you’re writing about the company, its products, or its competitors, use your real name, and identify that you work for the company. If you have a vested interest in what you’re writing about — as a shareholder, a paid consultant or employee, a board member, or the spouse or family member of one of the above, be the first to say so clearly and directly.
- Be truthful. Never represent yourself or the company in a false or misleading way. Make certain that every statement is true and not misleading. Substantiate all claims.
- Be relevant. Post meaningful, respectful comments — no spam, no remarks that are off-topic or offensive.
- Be smart. Use common sense and courtesy in all postings. Stick to what you know — don’t comment if you aren’t sure your information is correct.
- Be discreet. Don’t violate the company’s privacy, confidentiality, and legal guidelines for external commercial speech. Don’t publish or report on conversations that should remain private and internal to the company.
- Be polite. When disagreeing with someone’s opinion, keep it polite. If an online situation becomes antagonistic, don’t get defensive, and don’t disengage from the conversation abruptly. Ask the company PR director for help, and/or disengage from the dialogue in a polite manner that reflects well on the company.
- Be diplomatic. If you write or comment about your competitors, behave diplomatically. Get your facts straight, and secure the appropriate permissions from management before beginning such a conversation.
- Be silent. When it comes to legal matters of any kind — including the reputation or personality of any person or organization — don’t say anything at all. Never, ever comment on anything related to legal matters or litigation, past, present, or future. The only exceptions are the corporate counsel, the CEO (when authorized to do so by corporate counsel or required to do so), or the PR manager (when authorized or required to do so). (This is one of two hard and fast rules for EVERY social media policy.)
- Be guarded. Protect yourself, your privacy, and the company’s confidential information. Google never forgets, so consider your postings carefully.
- Be compliant. Obey all laws and regulations that apply to the company’s business, as well as all laws that apply to online behavior in general. Comply with all regulations and rules from any regulatory body or standards organization. (This is the other hard and fast rule for every social media policy.)
A policy that covers these 10 points can fit on a single page, and give people the flexibility they need to become empowered brand ambassadors without getting themselves or the company into trouble.