Social Media Guidelines. Got any?


Agile Planning

After the first steps in Social Media, most organizations realize it’s time to get organized. Instead of every staff doing their own thing on the social web, organizations strive to speak with one coherent voice while preserving authenticity. This is where Social Media Guidelines (SMG) come in.

The SMG provide a framework that serves to provide direction for all social media activities. (And what on the web isn’t social these days?) They protect the company from rogue Facebookers, and they protect employees from their boss’ wrath.

Below I’ll list a few Social Media Guidelines that I find well-written, plus from a diverse set of organizations from non-profit to corporate to military. Please not that instead of “guidelines” they could also be called “social media policy”, “social computing guidelines”, “rules of engagement” or something completely different. What we’re looking at here is a document that helps define the rules for all activities regarding social media.

The list below is what I sent to a non-profit that had contacted me about drafting Social Media Guidelines – it seemed like the list might be useful for others as well:

  1. Laurel Papworth’s List of 40 Social Media Staff Guidelines. One of the classic compilations. Plenty of food for thought here.
  2. Intel Social Media Guidelines: A classic. Well written, knowledgeable, focusing on the practicalities.
  3. IBM Social Computing Guidelines: What’s great here is that there is an executive summary outlining the basic rules of engagement, but also a lengthier, in-depth discussion right below.
  4. American Red Cross Social Media Guidelines: Very detailed presentation that goes beyond just Social Media Guidelines. It’s more like a tutorial for your staff. Great stuff.
  5. Social Media Policy des √∂sterreichischen Roten Kreuz: The Austrian Red Cross have both their guidelines as well as some more background on their website. Brownie points for also covering the potential issue of private vs business engagement as well as political statements. The only one in the list that’s in German.
  6. Rochester Institute of Technology: What RIT provides here isn’t really a guideline, but rather an overview of which group inside the organization uses which social media channel. The Alumni Association? On Facebook and Twitter. The department of Software Engineering? You won’t find them on Twitter, but they’re on Facebook and YouTube. And so on. Very, very useful both internally and for external partners.
  7. LA Times Social Media Guidelines : The LA Times Social Media Guidelines provide guidance not just for external communication but also for their own reporters and how they deal with information acquired through Social Media channels.
  8. New Zealand State Services Commission: Principles for Interaction with Social Media: This document is basically a reminder that state servants have to act responsibly when engaging in Social Media just like in their offline workdays. Obviously state servants play a special role, and special rules apply. Don’t ask what your country can do for you in Social Media, but what you can do for your country’s engagement in Social Media!
  9. US Air Force: Social Media Triage: This diagram shows how the US Air Force reacts to blog comments and other social media feedback. (I stumbled over the diagram in this great presentation by Altimeter first.) A simple, yet effective diagram that can guide your staff through the process of reacting to external reactions. Very well done, like so much of the USAF’s online activities.
  10. Audible.de: Social Media Richtlinien: An example of Social Media Guidelines in German, from Audible.de. Short and sweet.

Copy & paste or write your own – just make sure they reflect your organization’s core values and you don’t over-regulate. Instead of trying to think of everything up front make sure to re-visit the guidelines regularly and, if necessary, tweak them. It’s not rocket science. It really isn’t.

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