There's been no shortage of news these days about companies getting in trouble because of what they or a third-party marketers have done when taking to the socially-powered airwaves.
A common theme among those who find themselves caught in the crosshairs of the National Labor Relations Board, the Federal Trade Commission or even a company's own employees is that the companies involved usually don't have a social media use policy in place. Or if they had such a policy in writing, they didn't do enough to educate their staff about the costs associated with ignoring the rules.
If you're confused about why your company needs a social media use policy, I recommend reading "Social Media and Your Company's Acceptable Use Policy." If you're gearing up to create a social media use policy of your own, here are ten steps:
- Define "social media" clearly. That way you'll avoid confusion about what exactly the Social Media Use Policy refers to.
- Distinguish between "guidelines" and "policy." Don't confuse one for the other, because they are inherently different. Guidelines attempt to simplify a process, whereas policies are compulsory.
- Document your goals and strategies. Share why your company or organization chooses to use social media. Make your goals and the strategies known as part of the policy document to help ensure that everyone is on the same page with the company's basic premise for using social media in the first place.
- Differentiate between utilities. If you have guidelines or policies associated with specific social utilities, networks or resources (e.g., LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, wikis, company-owned online communities) identify them by name and be specific about what policies and guidelines apply to each.
- Describe what's allowed. Explain what is considered proprietary, confidential and always inappropriate to share through social media. Don't leave it chance. Go to great lengths to be explicit in this regard.
- Delineate roles. Make it clear who is authorized to speak on behalf of the company and who isn't. Identify the chain-of-command for notifying someone internally about an opportunity or issue that needs to be addressed via social media.
- Disclosures are a must. If employees are engaging in social media and it's permissible for them to comment on company or industry-related matters as private citizens, be clear in your policy about what is required. For instance, you might suggest a disclosure along the lines of "This is my personal blog. All views expressed here are solely mine and not those of my current or past employers."
- Detail disciplinary procedures. Address what happens if the rules aren't followed. Again, be specific.
- Disseminate the policy. Give the policy to your existing employees, new hires and even finalists for job openings. Include it in your employee handbook.
- Do your due diligence. By sending your final draft of the policy document to your attorney, you'll help ensure that your policies do not land you in the crosshairs of the NLRB for unfair labor practices.
Can your business can benefit from a having a Social Media Use Policy? Tell us why or why not in the comments below.
Mikal E. Belicove is a market positioning, social media, and management consultant specializing in website usability and business blogging. His latest book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Facebook, is now available at bookstores. For more information, visit MikalBelicove.com.