The Importance of Social Media Policies

Within the social media landscape, perhaps the most uninspiring part is corporate policies that provide guidelines about what kind of activity is acceptable and what isn’t. These policies are important but they’re far from sexy and often viewed as an after-thought as opposed to a necessity.

For companies questioning the need or importance of social media policies, the issue was thrust into the spotlight last week when CNN fired its senior editor of Middle Eastern affairs, Octavia Nasr, for a tweet she made about Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah.

While CNN was criticized in some corners, it stood by the decision based on the fact Nasr breached the company’s social media policy.

Social media policies are nothing new. IBM, for example, introduced its “Social Computing Guidelines” five years ago, which features 12 basic rules.

Coca-Cola attracted a lot of attention earlier this year for a new social media policy that features 10 principles for online spokespeople.

  1. Be Certified in the Social Media Certification Program.
  2. Follow our Code of Business Conduct and all other Company policies.
  3. Be mindful that you are representing the Company.
  4. Fully disclose your affiliation with the Company.
  5. Keep records.
  6. When in doubt, do not post.
  7. Give credit where credit is due and don’t violate others’ rights.
  8. Be responsible to your work.
  9. Remember that your local posts can have global significance.
  10. Know that the Internet is permanent.

With the attention given to CNN’s decision, there is no doubt it will cause more companies to seriously explore the need for social media policies, or re-examine their current guidelines.

For companies looking at getting into social media, corporate policies are as important as the strategic and tactical plans being implemented because they represent a major pillar in the overall program.

Without social media policies, employees have no insight or information about what they’re allowed to do, and what can get them in trouble.