12th Aug 2011
Many of the questions I get asked during the social media training I deliver relate directly to ‘safeguarding’ social marketing activity and the implications of employees participating in social media can have on a business or brand.
Rather than a business bury their head in the sand and create a policy of ‘no participation’ – I advocate a business getting involved and having a clear communication plan and social media guidelines which all within the organisation can clearly understand.
So – consider creating such guidelines for your business:
These guidelines apply to [CompanyABC] employees or contractors who create or contribute to blogs, wikis, social networks, virtual worlds, or any other kind of Social Media.
Whether you log into Twitter, Google+, Yelp, Wikipedia, MySpace, LinkedIn, YouTube or Facebook, or comment on online media stories — these guidelines are for you.
While all [CompanyABC] employees are welcome to participate in Social Media, we expect everyone who participates in online commentary to understand and to follow these simple but important guidelines. These rules might sound strict and contain a bit of legal-sounding jargon but please keep in mind that our overall goal is simple: to participate online in a respectful, relevant way that protects our reputation and of course follows the letter and spirit of the law.
- Gain authorisation from the Marketing Manager at [CompanyABC] for any social media activity where [CompanyABC] is the brand / organisation you will be discussing.
- Always be mindful that there are some topics we won’t comment on such as information about financials, intellectual property, trade secrets, management changes, lawsuits, shareholder issues, layoffs, and contractual agreements with partners, customers, and suppliers. When getting involved in any ‘online social’ conversations – then always consider the above.
- If you have permission to be ‘speaking online’ about [CompanyABC] (pre agreed with Marketing Manager) then always be transparent and state that you work at [CompanyABC]. If your objective is to be the communicator for [CompanyABC] on social networks, then ensure that the profile you create is fitting and on message and clearly states that you are an employee of [CompanyABC]. If you are writing about [CompanyABC] or a competitor, use your real name, identify that you work for [CompanyABC] and be clear about your role. If you have a vested interest in what you are discussing, be the first to say so.
- Never represent yourself or [CompanyABC] in a false or misleading way. All statements must be true and not misleading; all claims must be substantiated.
- Post meaningful, respectful comments — in other words, please, no spam and no remarks that are off-topic or offensive. Remember, once it’s out there, it’s out there.
- Use common sense and common courtesy: for example, it’s best to ask permission to publish or report on conversations/material/research etc that is meant to be private or internal to [CompanyABC]. Make sure your efforts to be transparent don't violate [CompanyABC’s] privacy, confidentiality, and legal guidelines for external commercial speech.
- Stick to your area of expertise and do feel free to provide unique, individual perspectives on non-confidential activities at [CompanyABC].
- When disagreeing with others' opinions, keep it appropriate and polite. If you find yourself in a situation online that looks as if it’s becoming antagonistic, do not get overly defensive and do not disengage from the conversation abruptly: feel free to ask the Marketing Manager for advice and/or to disengage from the dialogue in a polite manner that reflects well on [CompanyABC].
- If you want to write about the competition, make sure you behave diplomatically, have the facts straight and that you have the appropriate permissions.
- Please never comment on anything related to legal matters, litigation, or any parties [CompanyABC] may be in litigation with.
- Never participate in Social Media when the topic being discussed may be considered a crisis situation. Even anonymous comments may be traced back to your or [CompanyABC’s] IP address. Refer all Social Media activity around crisis topics to the Marketing Manager.
- Always provide working links to relevant material available on other blogs and web sites. Disclose any sources fully through credits, links and trackbacks unless the source has requested anonymity.
- Be smart about protecting yourself, your privacy, and [CompanyABC’s] confidential information. What you publish is widely accessible and will be around for a long time, so consider the content carefully. Google has a long memory.
- Ensure that any personal social media accounts that could be construed as associated to [CompanyABC] clearly state a disclaimer in the profile outline. Eg: The views in this thread are my own.
NOTE: Mainstream media inquiries must be referred to the Marketing Manager.
These guidelines are purely that – ‘guidelines’. You will need to consider what’s right for you and blend with your own internal documentation. Create a set a guidelines that works for your organisation and clearly communicate them to all relevant team within the organisation.
Share your ideas on what else should be included...
@Michelle Carvill is owner and Marketing Director at Carvill Creative – the online visibility experts. A digital marketing and design agency based in Maidenhead, Berkshire. The agency covers all aspects of online visibility - covering social media marketing and social media training, user focused website planning and conversion focused website design.
For marketing and social media advice – view the Carvill Creative Blog