How to Build a Social Networking Policy

The social media landscape has experienced rapid changes and growth over the last few years. Not surprisingly, its increasing popularity means that many of your employees are probably already involved in any number of social media networks or online communities. Given that we spend half our waking lives at work, it is perhaps inevitable that some of these workers will end up as the inadvertent social media facade of your organization.

Why Create a Social Networking Policy?

While it would be difficult to predict the future of social networking a dozen years from now, the explosive growth in the influence of this new media seems unavoidable. As the social media landscape continues to evolve, it is also becoming clear that social networking tools can be leveraged as a powerful multiplier of one’s marketing or public relations (PR) efforts.

This is evidenced in the way large corporations are hiring digital or social media managers, or incorporating such roles into the primary job responsibilities of existing PR or marketing executives. As companies strive to cash in the rewards of successfully engaging social media, guidelines are required to formalize a company’s strategy in this new, uncharted terrain. In addition, there is a need to recognize and protect social media practitioners within the company.

Eight Tips for Creating
a Social Media Policy

A good social media policy is like good art.
It's often hard to explain, but you know it when you see it.

Taken together, it is clear that there is a need to craft a proper social networking policy so as to maintain a degree of consistency in your organization’s engagement of social media. So what does a social networking policy consist of? The quick answer might be to point you toward a sample of a simple social networking policy on ITBusinessEdge.com, but my intention in this article is to walk you through the steps needed to create a more comprehensive policy for your organization.

First Stop: Define Social Networking

Defining social networking might seem redundant, but is important in order to properly establish the bounds of your policy. While it would not be possible to name all the social networks or tools out there, a recommended approach is to highlight the most prominent ones, and update the list from time to time.

Certain online interactions might not initially appear to be related to social networking, though, another reason why it’s a good idea to identify them in advance. Some examples might be conducting a technical discussion via webcast, posting of photos taken at company events, or sharing non-proprietary work documents on the Web. Properly defining the tools and activities serves to eliminate ambiguity, and will be useful when it comes to the next step: selling the idea to management.

To get an idea of the more popular social networks and tools, you might want to take a look at the Social Networking Tools Comparison Chart (pdf) compiled by the University of Minnesota.

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