How to Write a Social Media Policy – Part 1

Guest Post from J.D. Lasica.

The Soci­ety for New Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Research Best Prac­tices com­mit­tee has spent a year research­ing cor­po­rate social media poli­cies. The project included gath­er­ing case stud­ies on com­pa­nies’ blog­ging pol­icy devel­op­ment and imple­men­ta­tion for com­pa­nies man­ag­ing inter­nal and exter­nal cor­po­rate blogs and other forms of social media. From this research, the com­mit­tee devel­oped a set of SNCR-endorsed best prac­tices. We now present these 27 best prac­tices and poli­cies for devel­op­ing and imple­ment­ing cor­po­rate blog­ging poli­cies and guidelines.

6 Corporate Blogging Policy Factors

From our research, six fac­tors emerged as the high­est pri­or­ity in the suc­cess­ful devel­op­ment and imple­men­ta­tion of a cor­po­rate blog­ging pol­icy. These include:

  1. Cul­ture: Fos­ter a cor­po­rate cul­ture of open­ness. Lis­ten to and respect the opin­ions of employ­ees, cus­tomers and other constituencies.
  2. Trust: Employ­ees should be trusted to com­mu­ni­cate and develop rela­tion­ships with cus­tomers. Do not review blog posts prior to post­ing. Trust your employ­ees to be good com­mu­ni­ca­tors and to use good judgment.
  3. Train­ing: Pro­vide com­plete train­ing about how to blog, and review legal issues with employ­ees. Give employ­ees the option of train­ing rather than requir­ing them to participate.
  4. Trans­parency: Dis­close con­nec­tions with cus­tomers in blog posts. Reveal any com­mer­cial or per­sonal con­nec­tions. Trans­parency and authen­tic­ity are key.
  5. Accu­racy: Check facts. Check with col­leagues before pub­lish­ing con­tent that will affect them. If you write about pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions, ask for per­mis­sion before publishing.
  6. Com­ments: Develop and clearly com­mu­ni­cate your organization’s com­ment pol­icy. Set expec­ta­tions and clearly com­mu­ni­cate what is and what is not allowed on the blog. Allow neg­a­tive and pos­i­tive com­ments, but restrict inap­pro­pri­ate com­ments. Write to the per­son who com­mented first.

Best Practices For Implementing A Social Media Policy

The fol­low­ing best prac­tices will also help orga­ni­za­tions to suc­cess­fully develop and imple­ment cor­po­rate blog­ging poli­cies and guide­lines for their employees.

  1. Legacy guide­lines: Use exist­ing human resources and com­mu­ni­ca­tions poli­cies. Start with the employee com­mu­ni­ca­tions agree­ment that is already in place in your orga­ni­za­tion as the foun­da­tion for your new pol­icy. Pro­vide guardrails for employ­ees so they can safely and suc­cess­fully engage in social media prac­tices. Employ­ees often seek help and guid­ance when they are con­sid­er­ing launch­ing a blog. Pro­vide them the resources they want and need.
  2. Devel­op­ing new guide­lines: Include com­pany blog­gers in the process of devel­op­ing cor­po­rate blog­ging poli­cies and guide­lines. Think ahead in your social media pol­icy devel­op­ment. Develop poli­cies that will extend to other new and emerg­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nolo­gies such as pod­casts and video, etc. Once pub­lished, dis­trib­ute guide­lines widely. Com­pa­nies that have facil­i­tated wider dis­tri­b­u­tion had their guide­lines shared virally.
  3. Legal Depart­ment: If you have a legal depart­ment, include them in the process but don’t let them drive the effort. Seek input from legal when devel­op­ing blog­ging polices.
  4. Employee Com­mu­ni­ca­tions: If you have an employee com­mu­ni­ca­tions depart­ment, part­ner with them to develop these new polices.
  5. Whose views? Clearly define if the blog reflects the employee(s)’ opin­ions or the company’s perspective.

17 Key Social Media Guidelines

  1. Allow con­struc­tive crit­i­cism: Is it per­mis­si­ble for your employ­ees to pro­vide a dif­fer­ing point of view from management’s posi­tion? A cul­ture of open com­mu­ni­ca­tion will pro­vide the strongest foun­da­tion for the suc­cess­ful roll­out of a social media program.
  2. Respond­ing to com­ments: Set up a mech­a­nism for respond­ing to every com­ment that requires a reply.
  3. Acknowl­edge mis­takes: Acknowl­edge mis­takes and fix errors on your blog in a timely and open manner.
  4. Delet­ing con­fi­den­tial infor­ma­tion: If infor­ma­tion needs to be deleted because it is con­fi­den­tial and was posted in error, delete the infor­ma­tion and state why the infor­ma­tion has been deleted.
  5. Pod­casts and videos: Make sure employ­ees under­stand that the mp3 files asso­ci­ated with pod­casts are per­ma­nent and that it is not pos­si­ble to remove mp3 files in the same way it is pos­si­ble to take down blog con­tent. The same per­ma­nent nature applies to video files.
  6. Social media: The poli­cies devel­oped for blog­ging and com­pany web­sites apply to employ­ees using other types of social media.
  7. Pro­tect pri­vacy: Con­sider, define and clearly com­mu­ni­cate to employ­ees what infor­ma­tion is appro­pri­ate or inap­pro­pri­ate to disclose.
  8. Respect your audi­ence: Respect your audience’s privacy.
  9. Respect com­peti­tors: Do not write about com­peti­tors in a neg­a­tive way. Be respect­ful of oth­ers in your industry.
  10. Con­sider the impact on rev­enues: Con­sider this care­fully, and remem­ber that that if you talk about a new prod­uct, ser­vice or fea­ture as a pub­lic com­pany, you are required to account for the rev­enue in the quar­ter that you announced it.
  11. Dis­clo­sure: Make sure you iden­tify your rela­tion­ship with the company.
  12. Cus­tomer feed­back loop: Let cus­tomers know you lis­tened when they post feed­back. Respond appropriately.
  13. Cita­tions: Cite mate­r­ial included in your arti­cles, and pro­vide links to orig­i­nal sources where pos­si­ble and appropriate.
  14. Don’t break con­fi­den­tial­ity: Don’t write about con­fi­den­tial conversations.
  15. Com­mu­ni­cate this pol­icy clearly to employ­ees: Err on the side of cau­tion. Rec­om­mend to employ­ees that if they believe a con­ver­sa­tion might have been con­sid­ered con­fi­den­tial, check with the person/people prior to publishing.
  16. Plat­form: Com­pa­nies that choose to encour­age all of their employ­ees to blog can either pro­vide a com­mon blog­ging plat­form, or invite their blog­gers to select the plat­form and domain of their choosing.
  17. Pace of adop­tion: Real­ize that adop­tion of social media does not have to hap­pen all at once. It is a process.

These social media pol­icy guide­lines are avail­able as a down­load­able PDF.

What have we missed here? Do these policies work across different Social Media networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn?

About the Author: founder J.D. Lasica is a senior fel­low at the Soci­ety for New Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Research. Read More Best Practices For Developing A Social Media Policy