10 tips: How to write an effective Social Media Policy


More and more companies are embracing the openness and transparency of social media, and are using it to demonstrate their authenticity online.  Over 170 companies have already published their social policies online and socialmedia.org have a selection of policies for anyone to look at when they are creating their own policy and a great set of Best Practices in their toolkit.

Chris at Social Media Governance has what I think is the definitive list across industries – a list I often refer to when creating new policies for clients in a similar industry. 

What shines out though is how similar these policies are to each other.  Common themes are threaded throughout each policy, themes that are the culture of the business themself

Here are my guidelines on making a great social media policy:

  1. Be respectful. Don’t insult, disparage, libel, defame, inflame or attack others.  You might find that you get yourself into a flame war with someone who has a heck of a lot more time than you do, and spends all their time online arguing or disparaging your brand
  2. Be Authentic.  Integrity should underpin all of your communications.  Be true to yourself.  Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not.  The effort will be too much and remember – people buy from people.
  3. Be accurate. Fake social media campaigns are soon exposed and credibility is soon lost.  And when you’ve lost credibility, its very hard to get it back.  you will suffer. The brand will suffer
  4. Be aware of corporate IP. Protect copyright or confidential corporate information.  Makes sure that you respect other companies IP too.  It’s complex and involved if you get on the wrong side of it
  5. Be careful.  Do not speculate on matters that may prejudice your company in any legal case.  Remember that you may be required to disclose all of your emails sent over a very long time period if something happens
  6. Be valuable.  Your readers, they are potential future clients and connections and their satisfaction matters.  You want to offer them value from your communications so make sure that they receive value and not trivia
  7. Be humble. You can not be right all of the time. Acknowledge your errors and apologise with humility.  Remember, there are people on the internet with a LOT more time than you.  Apologise readily and quickly.  See point 1
  8. Be generous. Acknowledge other authors where you’ve used their work.  if you’ve found an image on the internet, make sure that you can actually use it (see point 4 above), and that your attribute the owner accordingly.
  9. Be responsible. You are the company spokesperson in your external messaging.  Press, journalists see you as the voice of the company.  make sure you behave appropriately.
  10. Be thoughtful. An off the cuff comment can do immense damage to your reputation and corporate brand.  See Points 1, 7 and 9.

Another good tip if you’re writing a social media policy is to be concise. A good social media policy should be less that one page so that the contents are remembered. Keep it simple. Keep it memorable.

And make sure you have a policy that reflects the culture of your company – whatever the culture is…

Image Credit: Flickr

Eileen is a social media consultant and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business.

Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.