How to Construct Social Media Policies and Guidelines

Now that your organization has decided to partake in the social media conversation are there precautions that you must take ?

Questions such as does your organization have a social media agenda?

  1. Do you know what you want to accomplish out of social media?
  2. Which social media to engage in?
  3. Where are my target customers? How far should the organization goto engage it customers?
  4. What information would your company release?
  5. Do you have a corporate image you would like to build and how to do this
  6. Who handles this within the organization?
  7. Do you have the network bandwidth to host the new application/platform?
  8. How will security be handled?
  9. How will you handle the explosion of content created?
  10. How will the content be stored/retrieved?
  11. What type of integration is need to other systems?
  12. Is the user interface conducive to achieve collaboration from internal and external customers?
  13. What is your response policy within the organizations

These are all valid questions that you should have an idea about when engaging in social media.

Many horror stories have arisen about people saying or writing inappropriate content and posting them leading to negative backlashes to their respective corporations and ultimately their demise as well.   As an organization not only is it important to understand who is using the social media within your company but how it is used.  As use of social media grows within the company what procedures are put in place to control the flow of information being released and what is being released as company secrets can easily be leaked proving your company to lose its competitive advantage.

Social media policy regulation within organizations is rapidly becoming the norm.  As companies have been burned from rogue employees and comments and leaking company secrets.  How will you deal with one of your employees who let something out of the bag or has an opinion that is not shared by the company  line or has mistreated customers leading to bad press.   Does your organization have a code of conduct for your employees to abide by, are there consequences to inappropriate actions, or does it lead to a straight dismissal of the employee?  Do these policies also cover confidentiality if an employee moves on from your company are they still bound by social media regulation policy?

These regulation policies of use are not to “censor” employees but more to legally protect the company, the employee and its corporate image.  Internal social media policy regulation will become a job responsibility as just another task. The employer is on the hook for the comment.  In an effort to protect consumers the FTC has implemented a social media guideline policy about truth in advertising policy to ensure organizations be truthful about their products. If an employee does not disclose their relationship about an endorsement of a product

Here is an executive summary of the IBM’s social media policies as a guideline to maybe model some of your own social media policies from. IBM Social Computing Guidelines: Executive Summary

  1. Know and follow IBM’s Business Conduct Guidelines.
  2. IBMers are personally responsible for the content they publish on blogs, wikis or any other form of user-generated media. Be mindful that what you publish will be public for a long time—protect your privacy.
  3. Identify yourself—name and, when relevant, role at IBM—when you discuss IBM or IBM-related matters. And write in the first person. You must make it clear that you are speaking for yourself and not on behalf of IBM.
  4. If you publish content to any website outside of IBM and it has something to do with work you do or subjects associated with IBM, use a disclaimer such as this: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”
  5. Respect copyright, fair use and financial disclosure laws.
  6. Don’t provide IBM’s or another’s confidential or other proprietary information. Ask permission to publish or report on conversations that are meant to be private or internal to IBM.
  7. Don’t cite or reference clients, partners or suppliers without their approval. When you do make a reference, where possible link back to the source.
  8. Respect your audience. Don’t use ethnic slurs, personal insults, obscenity, or engage in any conduct that would not be acceptable in IBM’s workplace. You should also show proper consideration for others’ privacy and for topics that may be considered objectionable or inflammatory—such as politics and religion.
  9. Find out who else is blogging or publishing on the topic, and cite them.
  10. Be aware of your association with IBM in online social networks. If you identify yourself as an IBMer, ensure your profile and related content is consistent with how you wish to present yourself with colleagues and clients.
  11. Don’t pick fights, be the first to correct your own mistakes, and don’t alter previous posts without indicating that you have done so.
  12. Try to add value. Provide worthwhile information and perspective. IBM’s brand is best represented by its people and what you publish may reflect on IBM’s brand.

As can be seen it’s not as easy as jumping in if you are an organization engaging in social media interaction.  Crafting of a message, and usage guidelines must be considered if you want to absolve your company of legal liability.  So proceed with caution when engaging in social media.

Eval-Source is an Analyst/Consulting consulting firm that offers enterprise software evaluation, cloud computing consulting, business process optimization and technology planning for organizationsOur innovative professional services make your life easier whether it is to acquire enterprise software  or provide you with fact – based information to match your business with IT. Eval-Source provides critical  decision support to validate your technology investments using the Tru-Eval  system.  Follow our blog at or on twitter @eval_source or our site

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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