Guidelines for Social Media Participation

Disclaimer The guidelines template below and suggested sites for examples of social media policies and guidelines are provided for information and education purposes only. They are not intended to substitute for legal or other professional business advice.

Suggested guidelines template to help a company get started with having policies in place before they are needed

These guidelines apply to (Company) staff or contractors who create or contribute to blogs, wikis, social networks, virtual worlds or any other kind of social media.

Whether you log into Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest or other social networking sites , or comment on tweets, blog posts, Facebook posts or online media stories, these guidelines are for you.

While all (Company) staff are encouraged to participate actively in social media, we expect everyone who participates in online communications or discussion to understand and follow these simple but important guidelines.

The guidelines may seem strict and with some legal-sounding jargon, but please understand and remember that our overall goal is simple: to help everyone at (Company) participate online in a respectful, helpful, relevant way that protects the company brand and our reputation, and of course is in line with the letter and spirit of the law.

1. Be transparent and say that you work at (Company). Your honesty will be noted and appreciated in the social media environment. If you are writing about (Company) or a competitor, use your real name, identify that you work for (Company), and be clear about your role. If you have a vested interest in what you are discussing, be the first to say so.

2. Never represent yourself or (Company) in a false or misleading way. All statements must be true and not misleading: all claims must be substantiated.

3. Post meaningful, respectful comments. In other words, please don’t spam and don’t use remarks or expressions that are off-topic or likely to cause offence (the fact that you think an expression is ok, even though you would not be surprised if others took offence at it, is not an excuse).

4. Use common sense and common courtesy. For example, it is best to ask permission to publish or report on conversations that you know or guess are meant to be private or internal to (Company). Make sure your efforts to be transparent don’t violate (Company’s) privacy, confidentiality, or legal obligations in terms of external commercial communications.

5. Stick to what you know, i.e. your area of expertise, and within that framework do feel free to provide your unique, individual perspectives on non-confidential activities of (Company).

6. Share good stuff. One of the ways you can best establish yourself and (Company) as contributors, not just takers, is to share interesting links – for example blog posts about industry innovation, great industry stories, from Australia or other countries.

7. When disagreeing with others’ opinions, keep your contributions appropriate and polite. If you find yourself in a situation online that looks as if it is becoming antagonistic, do not get overly defensive and do not disengage from the conversation abruptly. Get advice from a more senior person and feel free to disengage from the dialogue in a polite manner which reflects well on (Company).1

8. If you want to write about the competition, make sure you have your facts right (if in any doubt, check) and that you have the appropriate authority or permissions to do so and make sure you behave diplomatically.

9. Please never comment on anything related to legal matters, litigation, government audits, or any parties with which (Company) may be in litigation or dispute.

10. Never participate in social media when the topic being discussed may be considered a crisis situation. Remember that even anonymous comments can be traced back to your or (Company)’s Internet provider’s address. Refer all social media activity around crisis or sensitive situations to Craig.

11. Be smart about protecting yourself, your privacy and (Company)’s confidential information. What you publish is widely accessible and will be around for a long time, so consider the content carefully. Google has a long memory.

12. Be conversational. Try to avoid overly pedantic or too-formal language. Be a person, not a stuffy “company representative”.

13. If you screw up, admit it, promptly. Be upfront and quick with your correction. If you are posting to a blog, you may choose to modify an earlier post: if so, make it clear that you have done so – the convention is to put a line through the old content and insert an “updated (date)” note in brackets. If necessary, brief a supervisor on what has transpired and the remedial action you have taken.

14. If in doubt, you almost certainly should not post or comment. Once the information or response is online it’s in some way there forever. So pause, and if you are uncomfortable with what you were thinking of posting, don’t.

15. Remember your day job. If you have a personal blog, or Twitter account or Facebook page or other online social presence, you must assume that your identity as a staff member of (Company) can almost certainly be picked up through data matching. If in your personal, “after hours” capacity you publish content relevant to (Company), use a disclaimer, such as “the postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent (Company)’s positions, strategies or opinions”. Similarly, with or without a disclaimer, don’t post anything which might be construed as reflecting badly on (Company) or your work colleagues (or customers!).

Drafting notes:
This set of draft guidelines above is drawn substantially from the Top 10 Guidelines for Social Media Participation, by Todd Defren, as offered “for public dissemination and motivation” in the book Engage! (Brian Solis), pp 196-198

The content and style may not work well for your company, but they could work as a “placeholder” while you and your team develop something that works better for your company and fits better with your company culture.

So the suggestion is to edit these as appropriate and use a senior management approved version for the time being, with a scheduled review no later than 6 months hence.

Other guidelines worth reading, for different styles, perspectives and ways of communicating, include:

IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines (regularly updated and one of the best regarded models, for content and communication style)

Intel Social Media Guidelines (another excellent and well regarded model)