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Crafting a social media policy

By Mike Hrabik, Chief Technology Officer, Solutionary, special to Network World
June 10, 2010 01:56 PM ET
This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

Network World - Any company with a computer in the office needs to adopt a social media policy. It is just common sense, and, frankly, a smart edict to deploy and follow.

12 tips for safe social networking

The main purpose of implementing a social networking policy is to identify proper usage and behavior for social networking applications. Remember, the overall goal is to protect the rights and privacy of all employees and the integrity and reputation of the company.

The CIO should be responsible for ensuring the effective implementation of enterprise-wide information technology policies, standards, and procedures within each department. They should be posted in a place where they are easily visible, like an intranet site, and reiterated on at least an annual basis through awareness training.

Before any company delves into social media, it is important to be familiar with what it should look like and what elements the plan should include to be most effective. Communication is dynamically changing, so it's important to establish new or further enhance existing policies to accommodate these changes – and to revise when new forms of social media are being adopted- preferably earlier rather than later.

Because social media is unchartered territory for most companies, many people don't have an instinctive sense of the right and wrong ways to use it. Social networking users can easily introduce and spread malware to others and most of the time they don't realize they are doing it. A social media policy educates employees about your expectations for their behavior. It also gives an indication of your company culture and work environment.

Here are a few guidelines to being good stewards:
What's the business value? - It's important to consider whether utilizing these tools will add any real value to your organization. At the same time, the phrase "If you can’t beat 'em, join 'em" comes into play here. If there aren't any social media activities/technologies sponsored at the corporate level, your folks will likely put something out there anyway and without your control. When this happens, the repercussions could rapidly spin out of control.

Social media sites are exploding with new features and functions, with new sites popping up all over the Internet on an almost daily basis. You need to continuously identify and evaluate social media sites to determine business relevance and the unique risks associated with sites used by employees (on the personal or business level).

A company contemplating starting a blog or utilizing social network sites should:
• Produce policies, standards, and procedures.
• Train employees regarding business strategy for use of such sites.
• Update and refresh materials as necessary to be sure the messages are always accurate.
• Measure success and quality distribution channels.
• Continue to review risk associated with the evolution of media.

The policy should define what "Public" information is (for example press releases, social media sites, marketing materials) and firmly state that only information labeled or considered "Public" can be used on social media sites.

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