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Tips to writing a social media policy

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While writing a social media policy can be evolutionary, it still needs to have a strong backbone that addresses key elements. Many aspects need to be considered when developing a social media policy, from personal ethics to legal challenges. And because of varying organizational cultures and operating environments, no two social media policies are exactly the same. This is why getting expert information on how to go about developing a solid social media plan—one that fits your organization's culture and business procedures—is so important. Here are some tips to write a clear, well-defined social media policy for b-to-b businesses.
  • Create a task force. As opinions and ethics may vary between different people, all members of upper management should be consulted and reach agreement when developing a social media policy.
  • Define internal use. When it comes to using social media platforms in the workplace, outline what is acceptable and what is not. How much freedom employees have when interacting on social media needs to be clarified based on your workplace environment to avoid confusion.
  • Define external use. As we have seen, one slip on Facebook or Twitter can ruin a career or a business. So define who is empowered to communicate with the public—and set up an approval process.
  • Ensure confidentiality. Content posted on social media platforms needs to comply with the organization's confidentiality and disclosure of proprietary data policies.
  • Enforce accountability. Employees need to be held accountable for everything they write on social media sites.
  • Protect the employer's reputation. Employees have the duty to protect their employer's reputation. Employees should also be made aware that competitors might read what they post and, as a consequence, sensitive information should not be disclosed.
  • Discourage referrals. While employees have a duty to support their organizations' brand reputation and image, they should avoid encouraging referrals or endorsements. Why? Even positive references can be misquoted by competitors and used against you.
  • Avoid copyright issues. Include a clause dealing with copyright, plagiarism, libel and defamation of character issues.
  • Guarantee ecurity. Establish a security policy so that the company can be protected against external threats. This needs to be carefully implemented to balance security with the limitless nature of social media.
  • Review and update regularly. A policy is not always consistent with what actually takes place. Pay attention and adjust accordingly to make sure your policy promotes growth and safety.
  • Work hard; play less. Stress that social networking cannot interfere with primary job responsibilities; remind employees not to lose perspective when engaging in social media activity.
  • Determine who should be involved. In these days of outsourcing, temporary workers and other partnerships, the social media policy needs to clarify whom to treat as internal staff and who must reinforce the social media policy rules when external resources are brought in.
Steve Nicholls is principal at Social Media in Business (socialmediainbusiness.com. He can be reached at steve@socialmediainbusiness.com.
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