In a post I wrote called the A-Z of social media for brands I decided that P stands for Policy. I'm not one for too many rules and regulations, but it is a good idea to define some clear guidelines to help staff (especially novices) to do the right thing.
So let’s take a look at some real world social media policies and guidelines as used by companies. Zappos does a great job of summing it up in seven words, but the detail is also important and there are some fine suggestions here...
Don't pick fights, be the first to correct your own mistakes, and don't alter previous posts without indicating that you have done so.
Try to add value. Provide worthwhile information and perspective. IBM's brand is best represented by its people and what you publish may reflect on IBM's brand.
Speak in the first person. Use your own voice. Bring your own personality to the forefront. Say what is on your mind.
With conversations, participate online. Don’t “broadcast” messages to users.
With moderation, only police where we have to. Trust our users where we don’t.
Tone of voice. We should be sensitive to the expectations of existing users of the specific site. If we add a BBC presence, we are joining their site rather than the opposite. Users are likely to feel that they already have a significant stake in it. When adding an informal BBC presence, we should “go with the grain” and be sensitive to user customs and conventions to avoid giving the impression that the BBC is imposing itself on them and their space.
Always pause and think before posting. That said, reply to comments in a timely manner, when a response is appropriate. But if it gives you pause, pause. If you're about to publish something that makes you even the slightest bit uncomfortable, don't shrug it off and hit 'send.' Take a minute to review these guidelines and try to figure out what's bothering you, then fix it. If you're still unsure, you might want to discuss it with your manager or legal representative. Ultimately, what you publish is yours - as is the responsibility. So be sure.
Perception is reality. In online social networks, the lines between public and private, personal and professional are blurred. Just by identifying yourself as an Intel employee, you are creating perceptions about your expertise and about Intel by our shareholders, customers, and the general public-and perceptions about you by your colleagues and managers. Do us all proud. Be sure that all content associated with you is consistent with your work and with Intel's values and professional standards.
It's a conversation. Talk to your readers like you would talk to real people in professional situations. In other words, avoid overly pedantic or "composed" language. Don't be afraid to bring in your own personality and say what's on your mind. Consider content that's open-ended and invites response. Encourage comments. You can also broaden the conversation by citing others who are blogging about the same topic and allowing your content to be shared or syndicated.
Be external. You don’t have to be 100% internally focused. Link to other blogs, videos, and news articles. Retweet what others have to say.
Post frequently. It’s a lot of work but don’t post to your blog then leave it for two weeks. Readers won’t have a reason to follow you on Twitter or check your blog if they can’t expect new content regularly.
Be careful when sharing information about yourself or others.
Separate opinions from facts, and make sure your audience can see the difference.
Be engaged and be informed. Read the contributions of others. Know what the current conversations are and what people are saying in order to see if, and how, you may be able to contribute a new perspective. Participation is the fuel of social computing.
Aim for quality, not quantity. Offer your contribution with context whenever you can. Provide links to other blogs, media articles or whatever sources you think are necessary. Make your content rich and interesting for others to read. Consider attaching documents when necessary (but not SAP internal documents, confidential or not, of course!). And in every case, keep the language simple and flowing. If you start a blog, encourage feedback and conversation - make sure your readers can add feedback to your blog and respond in a timely manner. A two-way communication exchange allows for a more meaningful conversation.
Be real and use your best judgement.