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In one of Chris Brogan’s recent posts (Chris is currently the number one blogger on social media), he tells the story of ‘Bob’ a social media enthusiast who risks getting fired for ‘talking’ to customers and being (god forbid!) helpful.

To protect your organisation, and importantly yourself (from becoming a Bob) recommend the development of some some social media guidelines and get them approved by the necessary people so you and the boss agree on what’s acceptable and what’s not.

Social media guidelines can vary from the sublime (Microsofts; “blog away”) to the ridiculously litigious.  The most important thing is that they’re clear and straight forward with no room for ambiguity.

Here are some things to think about before you get started.

The first thing you want to do is refer to your organisation’s Code of Conduct (or equivalent) and state that the same principles and guidelines that apply to employee’s conduct in general, apply to social media activities (this should cover off most of the legal/defamation/conflict of interest stuff).  And then tie in your organisation’s values or vision (hard for the boss to argue if they reflect the company values!).  

Always speak in the first person and think about how you present yourself – once on the net, content can be near impossible to erase.

Use a disclaimer if you’re talking about something while wearing your company hat, and state that the views expressed are yours and not necessarily that of the company.

Protect confidential information – in other words don’t tell company secrets or disclose sensitive or financial information – and if unsure, always check.  

Protect your organisation’s clients – very important.  Never disclose names of clients or any other details that could identify them unless you have their and your bosses agreement.

Respect your audience and colleagues – don’t dis your audience or your colleagues. Bad form.

Add value – your organisation’s brand is best represented by you, so think about what you say and do and how that will reflect on your brand. 

Don’t get into arguments – if someone is being deliberately provocative, don’t take the bait. Respond, and offer a point of view but don’t get into a fight and never get personal.

Admit your  mistakes – if you screw up, admit it.  And if you make a mistake on a blog – and then modify it – make sure you tell your readers it has been modified and why.

Go with your gut feeling – use your best judgement.  If you’re about to blog or comment about something in social media but you have even the slightest reservation – there’s probably a good reason for it. Don’t do it.

And lastly, don’t forget your day job – don’t blog etc during work time (unless it’s part of your job).

Paul Gillin has links to various corporate blog and social media guidelines on his blog as has David Meerman-Scott.

And although in this current economic climate rash departures from the workplace isn’t probably the wisest of moves, if you’re working for an employer that despite your best attempts to educate them otherwise, is adamantly averse to using social media to listen to your customers, I go with Seth Godin, David Meerman-Scott’s and Chris Brogan’s advice: find someone that is. 

Siobhan Bulfin   

 

 

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