Policy for Blogging and Social Media Participation
I’ve been surveying the myriad of articles listed on this and thought a simple summary would be helpful to share, given the amount of interest that’s been expressed on the subject.
Below are some of the biggest risks to your company when employees are using social media:
1. Nothing is “off the record”
Your company may be liable for "personal" social-networking messages, regardless of whether you even knew your employee was posting them.
2. Inadequate transparency
Many regulatory bodies now require that you make sure that anyone promoting your wares disclose any benefit they may receive from you in their reviews.
3. False endorsement
While your product might sell better if you make up fake reviews and post them, false-advertising claims can lead to significant liability if caught, not the least being the backlash from “duped” consumers.
4. Predators are lurking
Fraudsters are routinely seeking ways to develop confidences that can enable them to obtain confidential personal and corporate information.
5. Lack of guidance
Whether or not it is officially allowed, your employees are Linking In, Friending and Twittering without any idea that they may be putting your company at risk.
With these risks in mind, here’s a top 10 list of considerations for companies to share with their employees and partners, as part of the below sample policy statement:
Sample policy statement:
Social Media sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIn, YouTube, as well as Forums and Blogs are exciting new avenues expressing creativity, and sharing interests and knowledge. Participation in these online communities is therefore supported. As social media is fairly new and constantly evolving.
The following Guidelines and Best Practices are for employees who choose to engage in social media. These guidelines will help understand the safest ways to engage to help protect personal and professional reputation, when posting on the firm’s behalf.
Guidelines and Best Practices for Employees:
- Be open and honest - Be honest about who you are. If you have been given permission by your manager to represent us in social media, then state this openly. If you choose to post about us, please identify yourself as an employee or a board member/share holder.
- Always provide accurate information - It is very important to make sure you have your facts straight before you post. Better to verify your information, than to post inaccurate information and then have to retract a statement. It helps to provide sources (news links, blog, forum links, etc) to back up your post. If you provide information that is inaccurate, admit to it and provide the accurate information. The community will respect your honesty.
- Be respectful – Don’t say anything your Mother would not approve of. You should always be yourself, but be respectful of others’ opinions and values. Even in communities where discussions tend to be volatile, remember that you are your organization’s representative, so take the high road and remain even-tempered.
- Be a valued member - Try to contribute information that others will find valuable, quality over quantity is better in this context. You should only share information if you think your community will benefit from it. Social media communities frown upon extreme self promotion and it can lead to people blocking/un-following you.
- Think before you post - Even if you are in a private section of a social networking site, you should be careful about what you post. Search engines can use bots to pull private information and people can copy and paste your comments to public areas which can easily be found. Avoid saying something you will regret.
- Maintain confidentiality - Do not post confidential information or material information that has not already been publicly disclosed. Do not share any proprietary information. Always be ethical, if you are discussing a situation involving any clients or employees, be sure that they cannot be identified.
- Be respectful of time - Computers and work time are to be used for firm-related business. You can post during working hours if your comments are related to your work or help you obtain information to solve a problem or complete a task. Personal social networking activity should be done from your home computer outside working hours.
- Be prepared - If you feel there is an issue that requires your manager’s immediate attention do not wait as social media “issues” can spiral out of control very fast.
- Be “On Brand” - If you have the approval to create a social media site or video on behalf of the firm, make sure you are using an approved logo and other images. Make sure to consult with the marketing department to ensure coordination with other promotions.
- Be thoughtful - If you are unsure of whether or not it is appropriate to write about a specific issue or topic ask your manager before you post