Throw out Your Social Media Policies!

rules-2What? Why would anyone throw out or better yet, not even write a social media policy? I read a fabulous article this morning (thanks Kayla) from Hubstpot about 30 Terrible Social Media Pieces to Ignore. While agree with pretty much the entire article #19 really struck a cord with me.

The article says “Social media policies waste time policing what is okay or not okay to publish in a single channel…at HubSpot, our policy is simply to “use good judgment.”

As we have seen time and time again “good judgment” to one person is not the same as it is to another. Remember the Domino’s nose pickers? Or the Red Cross rogue Tweet?

How about Ashley Payne, a teacher from Barrow County, Georgia who was fired after posting photos from her trip Europe – recall her? She visited the Guinness Brewery and some pubs in Dublin, posted photos of herself enjoying some beer and she was fired. She sued the school district because she was”not made aware of her rights.”

Her photos weren’t lewd or distasteful. They didn’t include her with her students or her on school sponsored trip to Europe. So what was the big deal? (I can’t answer that by the way. They looked like fun vacation photos to me!)

I’m confident she thought she was acting in “good judgment.” The school district disagreed.

Examples like this are exactly why EVERY company, persona and brand need social media policies. I even have them on my site. They set the ground rules for my students as well as other community members who read my posts.

Here are five essential must haves in every social media policy:

  1. Here’s what we expect: First, tell employees and those visiting your online community all the things they CAN do.
  2. Here’s what’s included: State explicitly what the policy covers. For example, whether or not the policy applies to multi-media, social networking websites, blogs and wikis for both professional and personal use.
  3. Here’s how you refer to the company: Employees should neither claim nor imply that they are speaking on the company’s behalf. Approval may be required when employees want to comment or write on corporate blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and any other social site the company takes part in.
  4. Here’s happens when you break the rules: Make certain that your policy includes a statement explaining what will happen if the employee breaks any policy put forth. For example, “That the company reserves the right to request the certain subjects are avoided, withdraw certain posts, remove inappropriate comments, block users for abuse, and in the case of misconduct by an employee loss of employment.”
  5. Here’s where you can find our policies: Post your policies everywhere and on all your sites. Make it easy for people to find, read, and understand them.

My upcoming book includes a more detailed explanation and some examples of great social media policies so you’ll have to wait a wee-bit longer for my in-depth reasoning behind having them.

So, tell me, does your company have them? If so, what do you like dislike about them?

P.S. Here is a great video from KPMG on their social media guidelines.

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