Thursday, July 7, 2011

Create a Social Media Policy Before it’s Too Late

If your company or organization does not have a set of social media guidelines by now, it may be too late.

Companies without guidelines to outline proper employee usage of social media are behind the times. Your employees are most likely already using social media at work; they may update their Facebook statuses, tweet on Twitter, link up on LinkedIn, or even check in with FourSquare. If you do not set up a clear policy outlining acceptable use of social media, a simple line of text could damage the reputation of your company in a second.

To begin creating a set of social media guidelines for your organization, start with a solid introduction to outline the goals and reasons for the policy. Also, make sure your guidelines are as short as possible and written in simple language that everyone can understand.

It is imperative to distinguish between using personal social media accounts and representing the company on a social media channel. Define who can speak on behalf of your company and create a separate protocol outlining best practices and restrictions for them. For everyone else, stress that personal social media use during work hours should not negatively affect productivity, break any codes of conduct or divulge sensitive information.

A good social media policy will highlight the fact that anything posted on the internet is both public and permanent. For instance, a lewd photograph of former U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner that was momentarily posted on Twitter ruined his entire career.

Employees need to know that anything they post can and will reflect back on your company or organization. If an individual is associated to your company anywhere within his or her digital footprint, your organization needs to outline standards of disclosure and professionalism to ensure its reputation does not suffer.

A social media policy should have real consequences for those who violate it. Furthermore, these consequences should not exist inside of a vacuum; create links to existing policies in your organization’s code of conduct, security guidelines and media relations protocol.

Creating a good and encompassing social media policy is not easy to do. Keep in mind that guidelines should not restrict the culture or growth of social media. Make sure you do your research, check existing corporate guidelines and consult your legal department before starting work on a policy. Crafting guidelines may be tough, but a clear policy will boost employee productivity and morale while protecting your organization’s reputation.

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