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Yes, It's Time to Create that Social Media Policy for Your Company

It’ s really no longer a question of IF your company should establish social media guidelines  but rather WHEN will you create them. With the growing audience of social media users internally and externally, it would be to a company’s detriment to overlook community policies for their employees. If you haven’t realized the full impact of how social media can impact your company brand and marketing efforts, you should check out these 5 Social Media Disasters.

Some ideas on how to create a corporate social media policy:

  1. Involve Stakeholders Throughout the Enterprise – Social media isn’t just for corporate communications. There are ample benefits for HR, sales, accounting, product development, executive and operations. Involve these people early so you craft a policy that encourages innovation and reflects the strengths and limitations of those departments.
  2. Set Aside “You Can’t Do That” Thinking – You’ve heard the mantras about “If you always do what you’ve always done…,” right? Social media is a new-ish approach to business. It enables new forms of collaboration, new approaches to problem-solving, and new ways to increase efficiency. “You can’t do that!” is our default response, a knee-jerk posture we instinctively deploy as a defense against discomfort. Hear it, recognize it, accept it, and set it aside. Then, proceed.
  3. Acknowledge Today’s Paradigms, But Plan for Tomorrow’s – Don’t draft a policy that reflects how you’ve done business for the last 100 years. Instead, think about the next 100 years. Technology, cultures, and human behaviors change. Is your policy flexible enough to adapt as the world around you evolves?
  4. Err Toward Innovation – Since the dawn of commerce, more companies have failed for lack of innovation than because of legal liabilities. Yes, be compliant with the law. Yes, know your risks. But there’s a difference between knowing your risks and deferring to them. Err to flexibility, toward encouraging new ideas and new models, and your people will astound you with their talents.
  5. Know the Technology but Don’t Legislate For It – Many corporate social media policies are crafted in a vacuum, of sorts — that is, they’re written with an incomplete awareness of social media’s scope. A good policy starts with an awareness of social media’s breadth, accommodates the rapid evolution of the technology, and stays technology- or platform-neutral.

Other considerations:

  1. Design a corporate social policy that is an amendment to your existing communications policy and ties in with your Intellectual Property and Business Conduct guidelines.
  2. Educate and address your employee’s in an understanding fashion — don’t push your employees into a virtual corner (read the discussions surrounding WaPo’s guidelines) by attempting to stifle the conversation that is already flowing. Instead request that employees participate responsibly to drive innovation and dialogue.
  3. Your employees are going to say what they want about your company no matter what, so acknowledge your employees worth and value as a blogger, contributor to the community and distinguish the difference between corporate and individual opinion online.
  4. Recognize that social media is an ever-evolving medium. Don’t create a policy specific to a particular platform, instead it should be broader and address social community behavior overall.

If you’re looking for example social media policies … lucky you for there is a great list of corporate social media policies on the Social Media Governance website. The database has over 105 Social Media policy documents (and growing!) from a wide variety of companies and industries – all available for free: Social Media Governance Database.

Below is an excerpt from a recent Mashable post on some good corporate policies and what aspects of them are good to adopt in your own social media policy. Original post:  3 Great Social Media Policies to Steal From, Jennifer Van Grove (Mashable)

It’s smart business to have a social media policy, and lucky for you some of the biggest brands have already paved the way and published policies that you can emulate.

1. Kodak on Transparency

With such a big brand name at risk, Kodak could easily fear the social web, and yet they’ve chosen to embrace it, as well as share their learning and policies with the world.

The Kodak Social Media Tips document is available for download as a PDF and is a good read, especially for businesses just getting their feet wet. Their actual corporate policies start on page 10 and provide an educational, instructional, and digestible utility that employees can reference when in tricky situations. It reads like a guide book, making it much more approachable than a standard policy agreement.

What to steal: Transparency guidelines
Why? They’re simple, straightforward, and very clear on boundaries.
Text: Even when you are talking as an individual, people may perceive you to be talking on behalf of Kodak.  If you blog or discuss photography, printing or other topics related to a Kodak business, be upfront and explain that you work for Kodak; however, if you aren’t an official company spokesperson, add a disclaimer to the effect: “The opinions and positions expressed are my own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Eastman Kodak Company.”

2. Intel on Moderation

Intel, a very active and social brand, has their social media guidelines published online. These policies apply to employees and contractors of Intel who use social media in any capacity.

They acknowledge their guidelines are dynamic in nature and will evolve as new trends and technologies are made available. They also clearly spell out what to think about when engaging in social forums and how to handle the sometimes sticky situation of content moderation.

What to steal: Moderation guidelines
Why? Intel does a good job at breaking down why bad or negative content should not be moderated unless it’s offensive .
Text: “The Good, the Bad, but not the Ugly. If the content is positive or negative and in context to the conversation, then we approve the content, regardless of whether it’s favorable or unfavorable to Intel. However if the content is ugly, offensive, denigrating and completely out of context, then we reject the content.”

3. IBM on Social Media Value

Considered innovators in the social media guidelines space, IBM was one of the first big companies to publish a social policy document and make it available to the public online.

The brand has tried and true social experiences, which makes their policies for IMBers read like best practices learned from real experience in the field.

What to steal: Add Value section
Why? They inspire IBMers to be thoughtful content creators on the web.
Text: “If it helps you, your coworkers, our clients or our partners to do their jobs and solve problems; if it helps to improve knowledge or skills; if it contributes directly or indirectly to the improvement of IBM’s products, processes and policies; if it builds a sense of community; or if it helps to promote IBM’s Values, then it is adding value. Though not directly business-related, background information you choose to share about yourself, such as information about your family or personal interests, may be useful in helping establish a relationship between you and your readers, but it is entirely your choice whether to share this information.”

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  1. Pingback: Your employees as social media ambassadors | Impact People Practices

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