Practicing Safe Social Media
by Kim McWatt
To have a social media policy or to not have a social media policy? That is the question. For some, the answer is no. Policies are useless, uninspiring, inhibit creativity, and essentially are stupid. For others, policies are important to protect both employees and the employer. What do I think…well I fall into the group of those who think it’s important.
Why would it be important to have a policy or guideline set up for social media usage at work? People have common sense and should know how to behave online! Yes, they certainly should. However, we’ve all heard stories of people on Facebook saying something harsh about their boss only to forget their boss is one of their Facebook friends. Duh.
It certainly is interesting to note just how many instances of people doing very foolish things online and paying the price for it – either getting themselves severely reprimanded or even fired. I for one, would rather have a policy put into place which eliminates any doubt about what my employer would consider “bad behavior” online. As Shel Holtz notes in his blog post “Social media policies are stupid. Your company still needs one.”:
Hiring smart people…doesn’t automatically mean employees know every compliance issue that could come back to bite the company. Many of those compliance issues are unique or have special applications to the online world.
No one wants to get bitten. So, based on a review of a number of social media policies now published online, here are a few basic guidelines:
- Be transparent. You represent your company on any online company properties. You also represent your company on personal social media accounts. If anywhere in your profile you’ve mentioned you work for “X Company” then you should always remember that what you say can and may reflect on your company.
- Ask for permission. Do not disclose confidential information. Confidentiality is especially critical for clients. Ask before disclosing any information about a client – a client relationship always comes first.
- Cite any references. As in a university term paper, citations and references are critical to make sure proper credit is given to the originator of the thought. Plagiarism is never a good thing. Copyright laws offline work the same online.
- Be accurate. Facts and statistics must be correct – but if you do make an error, correct it as soon as possible and clearly indicate an error was made.
- Disclose relationships. Clearly indicate your relationship to the client when posting approved content – as with transparency about your own company, it works the same with clients.
- R-E-S-P-E-C-T. This is what it means to me – no obscenity, insults, offensive remarks. Demonstrate respect for other’s opinions and comments. Take the high road and don’t pick fights online. Constructive criticism is always appreciated.
- Remember – the Internet never forgets. Everything on the web can be tracked – so be aware of what you are saying and doing online.
In many instances, these are no different from phone, fax or email policies that came into existence when these technologies were new. Mr. Holtz sums it up nicely when he writes:
One day, when the newness has worn off social media, the policies that govern its use will be inherent in an overall communication or behavior policy.
Any guidelines you would add?
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