A Few Guidelines for Drafting Social Media Guidelines

    November 20, 2009
    Chris Crum

For all of the great opportunities that can come from social media, there are plenty of negatives that come with it as well. This is of course why many businesses are hesitant to adopt social media strategies and/or let their employees engage with different social networking tools. It is also why many of the companies that do have social media strategies in tact, and do allow employees to use these tools have guidelines in place.

Does your company have social media guidelines? Tell us about them.

The merit of such guidelines is often debated throughout the blogosphere and on various social media platforms, but a business has to do what it has to do to protect its brand, and ultimately, nobody can make that decision but the managers and owners of those businesses. A business must do what is right for itself, and guidelines that may work well for one business may not necessarily fit the mold for another.

If a business does choose to seek the opportunities that await it with a social media strategy, it is probably for the best that they not go into it haphazardly and expect a great outcome. As has been discussed repeatedly in the past, there have to be goals.

As Wayne Sutton of OurHashtag mentioned in a recent interview with WebProNews, companies should do research before engaging with social media personas that can have an impact on their brand. He says, for example, that you should research a person’s audience before sending them a product to review just because they have a significant number of Twitter followers.

If you feel that your company requires some guidelines for social media use, you may want to consider putting something in there about not putting the company’s brand in situations where its trust may be sacrificed. For example, companies will often have somebody saying positive things about their product on blogs and social networks, when that person will actually work for or be affiliated with the company, without actually disclosing such information.

This is why the FTC felt it necessary to draft some guidelines on this practice (whether or not such guidelines are justified – it is a topic frequently debated). Regardless of what you feel about the FTC stepping in, you will probably agree that such a practice is not the best way to build trust for your brand. As Patrick O’Keefe of the iFroggy Network mentioned in another WebProNews interview, you will likely be found out sooner or later if you engage in this kind of practice, and the damage that can do to the trust of your brand may well be beyond repair.

Another point O’Keefe mentioned in that same interview was that it is not wise to force people to use various social media tools in the same manner. Just because you find a tool to be valuable a certain way, does not mean that someone else will not find it more effective in a different way. With that point in mind, perhaps you should pick the brains of employees to find out how they would go about using social media to help the company if given the opportunity.

The fact of the matter is, there are many, many ways to utilize all of the different social tools out there. If you are going to draft guidelines, you should get all the perspectives you can before you set anything in stone. If you don’t, you may potentially be shutting out some great opportunities, business, and sales simply because you banned employees from using tools in ways that you hadn’t thought of. Granted, you don’t have to accept all of these ideas as good ones.

The topics discussed in this article are certainly not the only ones to consider when drafting a social media policy. What are some key points that you include in yours? Discuss here.

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