Do You Need a Social Media Policy?

Filed as Guides on September 12, 2008 1:28 pm

The past two years of learning more about how blog comments work have led many bloggers and companies to have a Blog Comment Policy to set the ground rules for the online conversation. Blog World Expo’s blog asks “Does Your Company Have a Social Media Policy?” Good question.

According to Canadian Business (which surveyed 16 executives from various companies) companies are lacking in the social media policy department. What if an employee is spending company time on social networks? Does the employee need to identify himself as an employee on his social networks if he is talking about the company? Are there any rules in general regarding social media usage at corporations?

I see two issues here. One is that a company should have a social media policy, outlining how employees should handle themselves in the blogosphere, whether or not they are blogging as a representative of the company. The other is that maybe all bloggers should consider developing their own social media policy to protect themselves when they behave and interact online.

Just as our blog comments are mini-resumes of ourselves and our blogs on our blog and others, all your online behavior should represent you well. Have you given thought to how others perceive you across the entire social web?

What you do off your blog can reflect heavily upon your online reputation. Recently, I wrote about a person I found being rude and inconsiderate on Twitter and made a decision to remember his name as I didn’t want to ever do business with him, only to wake up the next morning and find he’d left a comment on my blog. An innocuous comment, but still an open door of opportunity for a relationship I didn’t want.

I judged this person based upon watching his abusive Twitter rants and raves. Does this judgment mean he acts like this all the time? Probably not, but I’ve learned the hard way to look for clue a person will repeat similar behavior in the future. They usually do when you least expect it.

We all need to let off steam once in a while, but our behavior is now public. It’s no longer a foot-in-the-mouth experience between you and two or three other people. It’s now foot-in-the-mouth exposure on YouTube. You can’t just apologize to a couple of people. There’s a world out there waiting for you to dig your way out of this hole.

How you behave on the web goes beyond responding to a negative reaction to a blog post. It reaches into Twitter, comments you leave on Digg, Facebook, Delicious, Friendfeed, and other social networking and bookmarking sites.

Twitter is especially insidious in this respect. I now have a lot of people following me on Twitter and I use Twhirl currently to track the tweets. Twirl has brought a world of disconnected conversations into my life. I’m only seeing one side of the conversation – not even a side, just a fragment.

I see a lot of off-handed comebacks, digs, and – what my god son used to call “neener-neener” – snide and snarky remarks. I have no idea what they are being cynical about as I only see the verbal equivalent of the thumbs in the ears and the fingers wiggling to frame scrunched up face and tongue sticking out, not the entire context. I see a lot of emoticons for :P on Twitter, the shortcut equivalent of tongue-sticking-out. Based upon these little useless fragments, I could make a lot of assumptions about the intelligence of some of my followers. Do you?

Everything we do on the web now defines us. Have you thought about that? Really thought about it?

If everything you do online is public, shouldn’t you have a social media policy, a policy that defines your actions and reminds you how to behave online to ensure your reputation stays clean and beneficial?

What would it look like?

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  1. By Nancy Nally posted on September 12, 2008 at 2:03 pm
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    This article meshes exactly with why I wrote a book review today of the book “Radically Transparent” on my website Scrapbook Update. Individuals cannot ignore the fact anymore that our online reputations are becoming extremely important – and widely broadcast.

    You can see the review at: Radically Transparent Review

    Reply

  2. By Brian Carnell posted on September 12, 2008 at 5:58 pm
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    Yes, I think you’re right. We should definitely forbid people from being themselves online and assume every stray comment on a discussion forum somewhere is representative of that person as a whole.

    Then on to other things. Have you noticed the strange church Bob has started going to? Or the creepy music Jill raves about?

    I think it’s important that we stamp out all self-expression that doesn’t conform to the company line. Wouldn’t want to think of people as diverse individuals . . . much better to put them into stereotypical pigeonholes.

    WTF

    Reply

  3. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on September 12, 2008 at 10:40 pm
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    @ Brian Carnell:

    Thank you for the interesting response. I don’t believe exploring this issue has anything to do with self expression or creative expression. It has to do with realizing that everything we do online is now public, and we are held accountable. A lot of people forget that and have come to regret it later. There is a growing industry of companies who promise to help remove those online regrets that interfere with the job hunt and reputations.

    I was taught by my past generations not to eat with my mouth open, not to fart in public, and other social niceties that makes social interaction more acceptable. Do these things inhibit my personality or make me a cookie cutter person? No. But they do make me more pleasant to be around in a crowd. Some people need a little reminding of lessons in social etiquette online.

    Instead of imposing upon others my rules for social engagement online, this post is asking you what are your rules for online social interaction and engagement are, if you have them. If you don’t, then that’s your choice. Have fun chewing with your mouth open and farting in public virtually.

    However, if you do like playing nice in the online world, what stops you from chewing with your mouth open, so to speak. :D

    Reply

  4. By Adam Cohen posted on September 13, 2008 at 3:27 pm
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    I do believe that companies should go beyond blog policies and create a social media policy. Just as in real life, there are guidelines when you go out in public and you represent both yourself and your company wherever you go. You can express yourself freely, but depending on the venue you are encouraged to act within guidelines. I took a cut at authoring our social media policy for our agency and described the basic tenets.

    Thanks for helping spread the word about social media policies, I think they will be import as more and more businesses have initiatives in this space.

    Reply

  5. By Barbara B. Nixon posted on September 16, 2008 at 7:26 am
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    Lorelle,

    I learned about this post from the For Immediate Release #380 podcast, and it’s a timely post. I’m teaching a first-year experience course for freshmen at Georgia Southern University. The focus of the course is how we make connections, online and off. I’m seriously considering having the students create their own personal social media policies as their final project for the course. Thanks for sparking this idea!

    Barbara

    (Now, I guess I must create my own!)

    Reply

  6. By Ari Herzog posted on September 16, 2008 at 9:01 am
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    You may enjoy reading a post I wrote last week on the importance of companies adopting policies for online behavior at the workplace. I culled the data from various sources: 30 Tips to Manage Employees Online.

    Also, you have a typo in the text and link for “Twirl” which is really “Twhirl.”

    Reply

  7. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on September 16, 2008 at 11:14 pm
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    @ Ari Herzog:

    Thanks for the recommendation and fix.

    Reply

  8. By Wilma Ariza posted on January 30, 2009 at 8:22 am
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    Thank you for putting into cohesive words my thougths these past few days as I have entered the social media stampede to nonprofit development. Very thoughtful…I shall follow and learn -LOL-

    Reply

  9. By Chris Boudreaux posted on August 21, 2009 at 12:22 am
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    This social media policy database contains links to more than 70 policies, and you can filter by industry.

    Reply

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