Social Media Policy: Why Your Business Needs One

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With more than one third of the world's population now online, it makes sense to have guidelines and procedures for cyber citizens to turn to — and if you are a business owner or manager, you are putting your enterprise at risk without a carefully drafted, communicated, and monitored Social Media Policy.

What exactly is a Social Media Policy?

Simply put, your organization's Social Media Policy should set forth a listing of Dos and Don’ts for social media behavior in the workplace. The best policies will define social media and describe your expectations of staff, independent contractors, collaborators, and, in fact, anyone who comes into the workplace and uses an organization's computers.

Is there a one-size-fits-all policy?

If only that was available! However, a 30-minute search on the internet will reveal hundreds of "model" policies from well-known companies (sources listed below) and dozens of tips for inclusion in a document that you can easily construct to address the particular needs of your individual business.

What are some of the key points to address in the social media usage guidelines for your organization?

1. State that the policy refers to all company employees and applies to multi-media, social networking sites, blogs and wikis for professional and personal use.

2. Make certain that information is a professional reflection of opinions and beliefs — avoiding abusive, racist, unethical remarks.

3. Think carefully before posting anything. Use common sense: do not post either proprietary company material or private information about yourself or co-workers.

4. Be honest about who you are and make it clear that the views expressed are your own — and not that of the company unless you are authorized to speak for the organization.

5. Refrain from engaging in heated conversations or posting angry comments that attack individuals.

6. Endeavor to share accurate, factual information backed up with well-researched links or documents. Stick to your areas of expertise.

7. Use the internet to find out who is writing about your organization — both positively and negatively. Engage with both in a professional manner to build relationships and solve problems.

8. Understand copyright and respect copyright. Do not use the postings of other people without permission or acknowledgement.

9. Respect the privacy of offline conversations.

10. The company reserves the right to avoid certain subjects and remove inappropriate comments.

Here are links to databases including "model" social media policies:

154 Social Media Policies

57 Social Media Policies and Templates

Conclusion

Again, why do we need a social media policy?

There must always be a code of ethics and etiquette for human beings to follow. The rules apply to absolutely everyone who has anything to do with social media. Also, you need to protect your organization from inappropriate and possibly damaging communication through social media. Your attention to possible online threats will address stakeholder fears and mitigate risk for both employers and employees — in addition to outlining what can and cannot be published on the social media channels. A well-constructed policy can become a tool for monitoring your online presence to build a stronger reputation — and a more successful business.

Sadly enough, research shows that two out of three organizations have no social media guidelines at all. Is your company one of them?

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Shari Weiss is a writer, teacher, editor, and marketing consultant who is working full-time on All Things Social Media. With a journalism degree from Northwestern University and a master’s in PR from Kent State, Shari has taught college courses in journalism, marketing and English for 20 years. In addition, she has edited an array of publications from Harcourt Brace Jovanovich trade magazines to a city-wide student newspaper.

Currently, she is the Chief Blogger for SHARISAX IS OUT THERE, in which she writes articles on a variety of social media categories, including How-To Lessons for social media beginners; Interviews with industry professionals; reports on meeting presentations; and strategies for social media marketing. She is also the Community Manager for Performance Social Media and leads workshops for entrepreneurs, small businesses, and university students. Her website is http://shairsax.com.

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