Corporate Social Media Policy

Image credit: Karliong
Image credit: Karliong

A few years ago blogging policy was on the minds of corporate communicators – now it’s a corporate social media policy that’s got their attention.

Telstra, a major Australian telecom company recently set down guidelines on the use of Facebook, Twitter and similar websites by its employees.

“Hopefully organizations are beginning to understand that employee use of social media is a reality, and that the risks and opportunities of their employees engaging online need to be addressed,” writes Ross Dawson¸ CEO of consulting firm Advanced Human Technologies.

“Social media is a free-flowing, wide-open phenomenon that needs to be handled and handled well. So frame its use for your staff, volunteers and base,” advises Nancy E. Schwartz, the primary author of the Getting Attention blog. She suggests that these are the core areas to cover:

  • What’s the personal/professional split, if there needs to be a split?
  • Any approvals necessary, at any point?
  • Who responds to conversation about your organization and how?
  • Who else needs to hear about that conversation?
  • How do you protect your brand?
  • Can anyone on staff who wants to be a spokesperson?
  • Which platforms do you get active on, and how?
  • What social media-ing is ok to do at work, and what’s not ok?

Here are some examples collected by 123 Social Media. Note: some are blogging policies.

It seems like executives (and nonprofit boards) are primarily concerned about three things, says Beth Dunn

  1. Employees will say bad things about the organization (sponsors, vendors, customers, etc.);
  2. Customers/constituents will say bad things about the organization (sponsors, staff, vendors, etc.);
  3. Employees will tell secrets.

PR Lesson:

Markets have indeed become conversations. Both outsiders and employees are using social media sites and there is no way to control this conversation. But you can set guidelines for employees’ use of social sites. For the most part it boils down to common sense and good manners:

  • what you write online never goes away, so don’t write anything that could come back to embarrass you or the company
  • don’t say anything you would not say in a public forum offline, when you represent your company in any way

“You’ve (hopefully) hired smart people that you trust, and are willing to empower and trust them to make the right decisions both online, and offline,” says Jeremiah Owyang of Forrester. “In many cases, these companies have over-arching ethics policies that span behavior not just on blogs and social networks, but also at corporate functions, or even when wearing a company shirt at a bar.”