The short answer is: heck yeah! A social media policy summarizes company procedures for employee communication in the online world. Just because you’re not as huge as Exxon Mobil doesn’t mean you can’t get yourself into hot water for what you tweet or post. So if you’re a business of one (you) or many, it’s best to have some semblance of a social media policy in place.

Don’t worry, it doesn’t need to be as fancy or long as the one IBM has developed. But you should have something crafted before you jump head-first into the social seas.

What should you consider when developing a social media policy? There are several things that can be very specific to your individual business. But we’ll stick to concepts that could apply to most businesses, big or small. When developing a social media policy for your company consider implementing the following points:

  • Explain why you have developed the policy. Many companies get hung up on the “what you can’t do” but your social media policy can also focus on “what you can do.”
  • Let your employees know that they should be themselves. They don’t need to lose their personality, but do need to understand that they are representing the company, even when using their personal accounts.
  • Include responsibility guidelines. Most employees (and even owners) need to be reminded to use common sense when participating in social media. If you wouldn’t say it in front of your mother, you probably shouldn’t tweet it.
  • Promote good judgment. Most people know right from wrong but having it in your policy can save you some grief later on.
  • Have a section devoted to copyright and fair use. Using that photo you found on the web for a blog post could get you into more trouble than you bargained for.
  • Craft a paragraph about trade secrets and proprietary information. No one intends for the secret sauce recipe to get out in the wild. But reminding your employees what company information not to share could save your competitive advantage.
  • Discourage aggressive and confrontational behavior. This is usually spelled out in most employee handbooks, but should be called out specifically in your social media policy as well. Employees may think they’re sticking up for the company when trying to correct misinformation. Encourage responses to be done in a professional and considerate manner because they can be even more critical than the original comments.
  • Encourage providing value to the conversation. Don’t just tweet to tweet. Inspire your team to stand above the noise and provide information that can really help your current customers and prospects too.
  • Spell out the consequences of violating your social media policy. Remind your employees that the company reserves the right to request that certain tweets, posts and comments be removed if they violate the company social media policy.

Whether you’re just starting out or your company has been involved in social media for years, take a bit of time to help your team navigate the ever-evolving social world.

If you’re looking for some additional social media policy examples to get you started, check out the following examples:

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