Back to basics: understanding compliance Article added by Amy McIlwain on June 16, 2011
Amy McIlwain

Amy McIlwain

Denver, CO

Joined: August 26, 2010

We’ve created a list of useful tips that will help you and your business continue your online success. We’ve also included a short checklist that outlines what you should have in mind while creating a social media policy for you or your organization.

The exponential growth of social media in the online world has quickly caused the lines to blur between the personal, professional, private and overall general models of interaction and conduct online. Implementing a social media policy for you and your organization is key in setting guidelines, rules and regulations on what is appropriate and how you and your business are displayed online.

But, ugh, rules and regulations? Social media policy? Proprietary information and content? What are these things?

It would seem that social media popularized so quickly that the idea of a social media policy was an after-thought for most companies. Regardless of whether you or your business has a social media policy, it’s crucial that you create and implement a strategy in regulating the use of social media and how your organization is being seen by the online world.

We’ve created a list of useful tips that will help you and your business continue your online success. If you or your business already has a social media policy in place, review your organization’s existing policies first, then consider the following three internal levels of social media guidelines: blogging policy, outbound commenting policy and employee guidelines.

1. Rules of engagement
  • Be judicious: know and follow your organization’s code of conduct and privacy policy.

  • Be transparent: represent and identify your company truthfully.

  • Your responsibility: know your role and stick to your area of expertise – don’t overstep your bounds.

  • Be a leader: don’t denigrate competitors, let alone your organization.
2. Contractors and endorsements
  • Give and take credit where credit is due.

  • Respect proprietary information, content and confidentiality.

  • Clarify who owns what.
3. Moderation guidelines
  • Reviewing and approving content: It is unnecessary to have each and every piece of content reviewed; however, it is recommended that organizations implement a monthly review process of activity.

  • Identify and define what your company’s purpose, scope and focus of information is.

  • Exercise good judgment.
Other helpful tips include:
  • Implement a social media accreditation process for your employees to complete before participating in your organization’s social media practices. Many companies and employees are simply uneducated in regards to social media and are therefore hesitant to engage. Education and accreditation are key to success.

  • Create a social media best practices guide to break down the creation and maintenance of blogs, podcasts, discussion forums, Wikis, RSS feeds, video sharing and social networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

  • Disagreeing or debating with other companies is not forbidden. Just be sure to be polite and behave diplomatically.

  • Use common sense. Don’t comment on legal matters, crisis situations or any other topics that could possibly be viewed in a negative light. Remember the three Rs of social media engagement: representing, responsibility and respect.
If you are an individual that’s looking for specific social media guidelines to follow, feel free to adopt the strategies above. I’ve also included a short checklist below that outlines what you should have in mind while creating a social media policy for you or your organization.

The first point is determining where you and your company stand in the social media sphere. How far do you plan on delving into the social media ecosystem? You also need to know what social media actually is, and be sure your employees are educated as well. Determine who owns the rights to specific names, content, social networking sites and so on. That way, if an employee leaves, you still hold the rights to specific property.

Confidentiality and privacy may seem like common sense, but addressing these issues with your employees will ensure that they do not share private and confidential content on the business’s networks. Deciding who is responsible simply means delegating certain social media jobs to certain people. That way, for example, if a public complaint is listed on your network, a certain person or team within the company has the responsibility to address it.

The second portion of the checklist starts out by detailing the importance of trying to dictate the rules of engagement without being a dictator. Social media is meant to be an open forum, so try to keep it that way. You can’t stop employees from communicating using the new mediums, but you can set some ground rules that work for everybody’s benefit. While your employees are already practicing good common sense while participating online, it still doesn’t hurt to set some ground rules to work around taboo topics.

Also, having a tracking system will make it much easier to archive and find social media records from the past. Education and training are huge — protect your company and your employees by making these resources easily available. It will give you and your company the confidence to succeed using social media.

Finally, always have a crisis plan. Anything can happen, especially in open forums like social media. So, keep a backup plan that addresses any issues that could arise and how to attack them.

Compliance is a touchy subject, and it affects everyone differently. Regardless of whether you are an individual or a business in search of a set framework and set of rules to abide by, it is crucial to have some sort of guidelines in place. Be sure to take into account the types of professionals and businesses within your field and the hoops they may have to jump through in order to use social media.

Also consider your audience — their demographic and area of expertise may play a significant role as well. The great news is that many individuals and organizations are facing the same compliance issues, and there are loads of resources online and off to help you in deciding what is best for you and your business.
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