A sample social media policy

By Daniel Edward Craig, Reknown.

Writing a social media policy is one of those tasks managers know should be a priority but will find any excuse to avoid. And yet for all the procrastinating, it’s not that difficult a task. To help, here is a sample policy and a few things to consider when writing your policy.

Why do you need a social media policy?
Given the explosive popularity of social networking, it’s likely your employees are actively engaging. Considering the public nature of social media and the rapid-fire speed at which information can spread, without proper guidelines in place your business is exposed to risks. These risks range from employees “social notworking” on company time to an employee posting offensive content that causes serious damage to your reputation.

By providing clear guidelines on what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate, a social media policy will help mitigate risks and contain fallout in the event of a breach of conduct or a full-on crisis.

Equally important, a social media policy will help mobilize some of your greatest advocates: your employees. Every employee has a role in shaping your business’s reputation, and the more voices sharing relevant content about your company the greater your reach.  The policy should encourage staff to support your social media activities rather than discourage them for fear of breaking rules. 

Use the following sample components as a framework to build a policy that reflects your company’s distinctive brand, vision and values.

1. Objectives
The company is committed to utilizing social media to enhance its profile and reputation, to listen and respond to customer opinions and feedback, and to drive revenue, loyalty and advocacy. We encourage employees to support our activities through their personal social networking channels while adhering to the guidelines outlined in this policy.

2. Definition
For the purpose of this policy social networking refers to the use of web-based and mobile applications for social interaction and the exchange of user-generated content. Social media channels include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, blogs, review sites, forums, online communities, location-based networks like foursquare and Gowalla, and any similar online platforms.

3. Key Contacts
Employees are encouraged to become fans and followers of the company’s profiles and to share company-generated content within their personal networks. However, the company’s channels are administered by designated key contacts only, and all official messaging must be approved and distributed by them. If you have content you wish to share via these channels, please forward it to them for review.

4. Conduct
Rules of conduct as outlined in the employee manual apply to social networking activity. Employees are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner, to respect the views and opinions of others, and to demonstrate respect for the company, its ownership, clients, guests, vendors, employees and competitors.

The company and its employees are committed to conducting ourselves in accordance with best industry practices in social networking, to being responsible citizens and community members, to listening and responding to feedback, and to communicating in a courteous and professional manner.

Behavior and content that may be deemed disrespectful, dishonest, offensive, harassing or damaging to the company’s interests or reputation are not permitted. The use of social media channels on company time for personal purposes is not allowed. 

5. Transparency
The company is committed to honesty, authenticity and accountability in all social media communications. Employees must disclose their identity when engaging in discussions or sharing content related to the company. If voicing an opinion on a controversial topic, employees must include a disclaimer stating that the opinions expressed are their own and not those of the company or its employees.

6. Confidentiality and Copyright
Employees must not disclose private or confidential information about the company, its employees, clients, suppliers or customers on social networks. Employees must respect trademarks, copyrights, intellectual property and proprietary information. No third-party content should be published without prior permission from the owner.

7. Enforcement
The company maintains the right to monitor company-related employee activity in social networks. Violation of policy guidelines is grounds for discipline up to and including dismissal.

Rolling out your policy
Have the policy reviewed by a human resources professional and a labor lawyer to ensure it conforms to company policies and local employment standards. Once finalized, review the policy at a staff meeting to ensure it is fully understood and ask employees to sign it. Don’t forget to include outside contractors.

Note that this is a general policy intended for all employees. For administrators of social media channels dedicated training is recommended, along with more detailed guidelines outlining strategies, best practices, tone, vocabulary and frequency of content, and guidelines for responding to feedback are recommended.

For sample social media policies check out the Social Media Governance site.

More suggestions or samples of a social media policy? Leave your comments here.

 

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9 Responses to “A sample social media policy”

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  1. Really great points made here…
    One of the things you see time and time again is people jumping in head first without proper planning….
    This way you have rules and guidelines to protect your brand online, 'prevention's better than cure'
    Dan

  2. Are Morch says:

    Hi Daniel.
     
    Agree with. Great point here. 
     
    I am a true advocate of developing proper Social Media Guidelines followed up by a Social Media Strategy. Way to many jump on the Social Media Train without any idea of what direction the train is actually going.
     
    I wrote an article last year with some of the same points as here – http://aremorch.com/2010/12/13/how-to-create-a-social-media-guideline-that-sizzle/ 
     
    And in my report How To Leverage Social Media For Hotel I go a little more in details.
     
    It is not a complicated process, but it is something I support that Hotels implement in their overall strategy. One point that I also focus on when Hotels develop their Social Media Guideline or Social Media Strategy is to involve their employees.
     
    Cheers…
     
    Are Morch
    Hotel Advisor and Social Media Strategist

  3. jay patel says:

    hi Craig,
    I love the way you post.
    Social media are media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable communication techniques now a days.

    The more people u touch via  SM (social media )and social network connections, the greater the chance that u will always be a top result whenever they do a search in your general direction.Thats why I guess a Hotel Owner(any business owner)  needs a social media existance

    • Thanks Jay – glad you like. Yes, it’s incredible how social media sites – and content – have vaulted to the top of online searches in such a short time. They’ve transformed the makeup of first-page results. Will be interesting to watch how things evolve.

  4. Are Morch says:

    Thanks Daniel.
    Have to check out why some of my links seems to get added some additional special HTML.
    Might be a Mac copy and paste thing. Started to happen when I got my Mac here. So might need to check that. Don't want find out that I have lot of dead links out there.
    Cheers.. 
    Are Morch
    Hotel Advisor and Social Media Strategist

  5. John Kuria says:

    really helped me ….hope am not already violating the copyright issues but i couldn't do without apply this guideline in my policy
     
    thanks for the post

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