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Engaging with caution in the social media free for all

By Barbara De Costa | Published: 28/10/2012

As more and more news stories surface about social media sites, and individual profiles therein, helping, hindering and even instigating litigious proceedings, many businesses are developing Social Media Guidelines for staff engaging in these spaces on their behalf.

Social media has its origins not in process, administration and red tape, but in sharing, communicating, friends, sunshine and rainbows and, for the most part an individual can gaily gad about these platforms without a care in the world. But business profiles have to consider reputation, brand, confidentiality and a suite of other concerns that, on a bad day, can end with a call to your lawyer.

As well as keeping you out of court, a good set of social media guidelines can also, albeit counter intuitively, provide a streamlined approvals process to abate bureaucratic brouhaha around who is allowed to say what in this space. In fact a well thought out Engagement Policy can actually avoid publishing delays, promote consistency and mitigate risk.

What should a Social Media Engagement Policy say?

At Link we develop these policies with the client on a case by case basis: there is simply no other way. But the following list represents the kind of inclusions that come up the most:

  1. Staff will not share or publish online any confidential information relating to [business name] accounts: including anything pertaining to budget or anything that may compromise agency or client security
  2. Staff will not share or publish personal details, particularly contact details of clients or staff
  3. Staff will not share or publish any material that could be perceived as slanderous or offensive
  4. Staff will not publish any confidential material relating to unresolved legal matters
  5. Staff will not provide access to [business name] Social Media accounts, including login and password details, to anyone, either internal or external without Executive approval
  6. Staff will not publish any unreasonable criticism concerning [business name] or its clients
  7. Staff will not publish any information that sits under the following categories without the appropriate executive approvals
    • Ambiguous or unsubstantiated research findings
    • Reasonable criticism concerning [business name] or its clients
    • Material that for various reasons may disrupt the [business name] workplace
    • Material that may compromise people’s confidence in [business name] or a client
    • Material that may compromise [business name] ‘s ability to be responsive to clients
    • Material that is still in draft or under embargo
  8. Staff will edit or remove posts as required by Executive
  9. Staff will regularly undertake audits of static information across all [business name] social media profiles to review currency as well as factual, typographic and grammatical errors
  10. Where emergency posts are deemed necessary but there is doubt surrounding the accuracy of information or the reliability of sources, staff must also publish a disclaimer to this effect. Note that this needs to be addressed on a case by case basis.

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