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How to Develop a Social Media Policy

Your Employees Are Participating in Social Media


Your prospective, current, and former employees, customers, and vendors are all hanging out on social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr. You need to monitor social media to learn what all of these stakeholders are sharing and saying about your company, your employees, and your workplace.

Use social media to your company’s advantage. Shama (Hyder) Kabani, author of the Zen of Social Media Marketing and the President of Click to Client, a full service web marketing firm, asks, ”What are they saying about you, your company, and your practices? Better yet – how are you responding? Having a social media policy in place does not mean that you get to dictate your image. But, you do get to interact responsibly in the conversation that forms your image. And, you get to help your employees do the same.”

Why a Social Media Policy and Company Best Practices Are Needed

Kabani says, “The world is changing fast, and how we communicate is changing even faster. It isn’t just Gen Y that blogs and twitters – it is a growing phenomenon embraced by all generations. There are great benefits to today’s technology and its widespread use, but there are also some risks as pointed out by Raj Malik of Network Solutions.” He writes that “unauthorized or inappropriate commentary or posts online can:

  • ”Get the Company, and you, in legal trouble with the U.S. and other government agencies, other companies, customers or the general public.
  • ”Diminish the Company’s brand name by creating negative publicity for The Company, owners and partners as well as yourself or your team.
  • ”Cause damage to The Company by releasing non-public information or proprietary information.
  • ”Cost us the ability to get patents or undermine our competitive advantage.
  • ”Cost you your job at the Company.”

He suggests that most of these won’t trouble companies if employees use common sense and good judgment in their online interaction. (You may want to take a look at his entire blog post. He offers common sense blogging rules and a list of taboo topics, both of which may be useful as you develop online social media guidelines and strategies for your company and employees.)

10 Steps to a Social Media Policy

Kabani, who has been named one of the top 10 most influential and powerful women in social media, suggests these ten steps to creating your company social media guidelines and strategy.

  • Decide where your company stands with respect to their desired relationship with social media. You also need to decide where you stand relative to monitoring employee use of social media, too. You need to determine how far your company wants to go in utilizing social media for brand recognition, engaging your customers and employees in conversation, and for driving sales.

    Kabani asks, “Will you choose only to communicate in reaction to what someone else says? Will you be proactive in engaging the community (consumers and bloggers)? Without an overall way of thinking about social media, it can be very hard to create a policy.”

  • Determine what constitutes social media. Kabani says that each organization needs to define for their own use what constitutes social media. “While a blog and LinkedIn may easily be categorized as social media – what about online video? What about Twitter? What really constitutes social media? You must have your own (preferably) written definition. This is especially true because new websites and tools emerge all the time. My personal definition of social media is any website or medium (including video) that allows for communication in the open.”

  • As with any offline or online content written, used, received, developed, or saved in company-owned electronics provided to employees, clarify who owns what. There is no question, as an example, about a personal blog, written by an employee, on his time. If he leaves your employ, the blog and the content belong to him. But, the content of his company-owned laptop and cell phone, and the content he wrote for the company website, probably belong, by written policy, to the company.

    In social media, does your company have a Twitter account or a Facebook Fan page, as examples? The company needs to assure that the ownership of these social media accounts belongs to the company, not the employee whose current job assignment includes posting to and monitoring these accounts. Your policy must cover who owns what in the social media sphere.

  • Keep confidential and proprietary information private. Respect the privacy rights of other employees and your customers. Social media policies must address the issue of keeping proprietary and personal information confidential. Kabani says, “Due to the casual nature of these sites, it is easier to give away key information without realizing it. Even private messages aren’t always secure. Each site has its own fallibilities. It’s best that employees never share any confidential or proprietary information using social media – either publicly or privately.”

Find six more steps to creating a social media policy and strategy.

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