Thursday, 18 February 2010

Social media staff guidelines

There continues to be a lot of discussion surrounding the issue relating to how staff should engage with others on social networks in their official capacity as an employee of an organisation. This usually involves having policies in place that employees need to adhere to. This is particularly true of local government (local and central). Employees want policies that set out the ground rules for social media engagement, that give clear guidance on how employees can and should use social networks to engage with others.

Issues that any policy needs to address could included the following:

· What is acceptable when an employee replies to a blog or forum comment?
· What is considered confidential?
· What can and cannot be discussed or revealed?

For anyone working within government (myself included) there are already a set of guidelines under the online participation guidance for civil servants, which were developed by the Minister for Digital Engagement. These guidelines are broad enough that they can and should form the basis for any social media policy, whether it be for the public or private sector.

Laurel Papworth has also created a list of 40 social media staff guidelines, so there should be enough material between these two links to create your own organisational social media policy.

The development of any policy needs to be conducted with the buy in from key representatives, including upper management, communications and anyone else who will be actively or indirectly involved. What you don’t want is your policy being created by small, very keen and possibly unrepresentative group of employees. While they may be acting with the best of intentions, any social media policy needs acceptance and buy in from upper management. This at least ensures that they have read and understood the policy, and are happy with its contents. It is best to get this the policy formally signed off as an official work policy.

Once the policy has been formally signed off, then it needs to be circulated to those employees who will be responsible for engaging with social media on the organisation’s behalf. Presumably, some of these employees will have been involved in the creation of the policy, but depending on the size of organisation, maybe not everyone will have been involved in this process.

It’s important for any organisation that wishes to engage with social media that its employees have clear and concise guidelines defining what constitutes acceptable engagement.

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