Writing an Effective Corporate Social Media Policy

AnnouncementAs social media continues to permeate our clients’ collective consciousness, the call for corporate policies is beginning to get louder. Some clients have the foresight to establish social media policies at the onset while some are playing catchup. (Fortunately, we haven’t had any clients scrambling to write policies as a result of a social crisis. Bound to happen, I’m sure…)

So here are some good tips and references to consider when penning your company’s social media policies. And by “company”, I mean of any size. Whether you’re an organization of five or five thousand, you’ll be well served by a policy document. It establishes ground rules for your employees and your readers.

Mashable offers a pretty handy top 10 must-haves for a social media policy. And it certainly covers most of the bases – authenticity, ownership, being courteous and respectful, avoiding legal quicksand – so let’s use that as a starting point. Here are five points I’d offer to accentuate or add to this list:

  1. Write your social policy in plainspeak. This isn’t supposed to be an exercise in legal prowess. Yes, bigger companies can occupy their corporate counsel with the task. Certainly, you want to address issues like non-disclosure and IP protection, but do so with intuitive language. If a major tenet of social media is accessibility, start that vibe with your actual policy. Make it something everyone can understand.
  2. Write it for your internal and external audiences to see. Set parameters for your internal contributors and let your external participants see them. And vice versa. Cross pollinating your guidelines establishes a level playing field and sets appropriate expectations for dialogue. It demonstrates transparency, too. Post them in an obvious place for all to see (not taped under the receptionist’s desk.)
  3. Establish policy ownership. Have someone responsible for the policies…someone who can interpret and expand the policies where needed and a throat to choke, if necessary. While you want to afford latitude and entrust adherence to your employees, there ultimately needs to be an enforcer.
  4. Encourage review and revisions. Your social graph will change over time as new tools, new employees and new scenarios present themselves. Invite conversation and comments about your very policy and affirm that it’s an organic document to evolve alongside your company.
  5. Be sure to discuss authorship and commenting. Many policies deal with writing blog posts and what can or can’t be included. But be sure to establish ground rules for more informal commenting. The quick, incidental comments or tweets can be often be impulsive, knee-jerk actions. Reminding your employees to think before they yap helps those knees from coming back into your corporate groin.

That covers the big ones. We could get granular about specific points worth noting in a policy, but that would make for a colossal post. So here’s a great list of corporate social media policies from 113 organizations from Social Media Today to reference. See what other companies big and small – from a broad spectrum of industries – include in their policies. You may just find your perfect language in the process.

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