Corporate social networking guidelines

Decisions

General

Are there relevant business conduct guidelines?

Yes, the guidelines cover all the basic cases.

Yes, but the guidelines need to be revised.

Not yet.

Can employees participate in social media during company time?

Yes. Participation in social media can contribute to corporate goals and increase employee satisfaction.

No, social media does not benefit the company, and employees are not allowed to use company resources for personal use.

Can employees participate in social media using company resources?

Yes. Participation in social media can contribute to corporate goals.

No, social media does not benefit the company, and employees are not allowed to use company resources for personal use.

Should there be an oversight committee?

Yes, to provide guidance and take action.

No, because it requires additional time and effort.

Should the company be able to influence/dictate what employees do with their personal use of social media?

Yes: The company brand can be affected by what people do, even on their personal time.

No: Employees have a right to a personal life, and the company respects that.

Are temporary employees, interns, and contractors granted access to internal social media platforms?

Yes: They can contribute insights too.

No: The company has less control over them, and they may have less experience with corporate culture.

Are internal social media platforms considered safe for confidential material?

Yes, because the company needs a safe place for discussion.

No, because contractors and other outsiders have access to the intranet.

Should employees disclose or hide their company affiliation?

Disclosure: More transparency and authenticity, less risk of backlash when affiliations are revealed, more responsibility

No mention of affiliation: Does not immediately associate brand with people's actions, reduces risk of mistaken authority

Are temporary employees, interns, and contractors allowed to identify themselves as part of the company on external social media platforms?

Yes, because they are affiliated with the company.

No, because the company has less control over them and they may have less experience with corporate culture.

Blogs and forums

Are external blogs allowed?

Yes: People will blog anyway, so you should at least be part of the conversation.

No: Employees may cause brand damage.

Subtopic

Does the company monitor and respond to discussions in the blogosphere?

Yes: The company can respond to issues before they snowball into something that attracts mainstream media.

No: This takes away resources from other areas.

Do executives have special considerations when blogging?

Yes: On one hand, they need to pay closer attention to disclosure regulations. On the other hand, they have had more training and experience in communicating publicly, so they can be trusted more than typical employees.

No: They are treated just like other employees.

Are external blogs going to be hosted, or should employees use third-party blogging platforms?

Hosted: Provides branding opportunities, provides greater control over content, makes it easy for others to see thriving blogosphere.

Third-party: Reduces liability risks, allows greater personal expression.

Are internal blogs supported?

Yes: Provides a safer internal haven for company-specific discussions.

No: Requires additional IT support, distracts people from their real work.

Will the company aggregate employee blogs?

Yes: Helps people discover company-related discussions.

No: Exposes the company to more liability because the company's brand becomes associated with bloggers over whom the company has limited or no control.

Can employees disagree with the company or their coworkers?

Yes: Creates more authentic discussion.

No: Exposes dirty laundry.

What should employees do about negative comments on their blog?

Allow: Promote free discussion.

Moderate: Attempt to control disruptive behavior.

Turn off comments: Prevent both positive and negative discussions.

Can employees talk about the competition?

Yes, but mainly positively: Promotes fair play and increases respect for the company.

Yes, but only negatively: Will not contribute to competitors' sales.

No: Avoid liability.

Can employees offer advice?

Yes (possibly with disclaimers): Provide value and create stronger relationships with clients

No: Save intellectual property for billable engagements, avoid liability exposure

Can employees post criticism?

Yes, this leads to more authentic discussion.

No, it reflects badly on the brand.

Can employees advertise?

Yes: (Some third-party platforms insert their own ads)

Yes, and employees should try to make sure that ads are in line with corporate values.

No, employees should avoid possibly confusing the brand wth irrelevant advertisements.

Social networking

Can employees interact with their personal social networks during company time and/or on company resources?

Yes, as long as it does not interfere with their work. The Internet can be used for reasonable personal use, just like the telephone.

No, employees should not use company resources for personal use.

Can employees start or participate in unofficial groups?

Yes: The groups will be there anyway, so employees may as well be part of the conversation.

No: Participation may legitimize groups which the company does not control.

Scenarios

Social networking

Your new hires are glad to be part of the company, and they've added it to their profiles. However, their profile pictures are not business-appropriate, and these pictures are part of the results when people do a search for the company. What do you doé

An employee is selling a couch on Facebook. For some reason, the ad shows up in your company's Facebook flyer, clearly associated with your brand. What do you doé

While recruiting for a position, you search for background information on your promising candidates. A number of them have profiles on Facebook. Some include name, age, gender, relationship status, religion, and political leanings. Some include interests that may offend your clients. By doing this background check, have you exposed yourself to allegations of discriminationé

One of your coworkers has invited you to connect with her. You have some photos and blog entries that you do not feel comfortable sharing with her, but the social network does not allow fine-grained access controls that would allow you to share these items with only your close friends. Can you ignore or decline the request without repercussion?

A dissatisfied customer created a group called "ABC Company Sucks!". Hundreds of dissatisfied customers joined the group, and the discussion is full of horror stories about bad customer service. The discussion forum is visible to everyone, but only members of the group can participate in the discussion. How should the company respond to this? Can employees join the discussion in order to address concerns? How can employees avoid accusations of being shills or astroturfers?

Blogging

A dissatisfied customer created a blog called "ABC Company Sucks!". Hundreds of dissatisfied customers have commented, and the discussion is full of horror stories of bad customer service. The blog is now the second hit on popular search engines. How can the company respondé

An employee posted some lessons learned from a project on an internal blog. Another employee took offense at the suggestions, seeing them as thinly-veiled criticism, and has asked that the blog entry be taken down. Should the entry be edited, deleted, or kept as isé

An employee blogged about a public announcement externally. The comments became dominated by strong criticism of the company's labor practices, a matter unrelated to the original post. Should the employee moderate the discussion, engage in the conversation, or close all commentsé

An employee has a personal blog on which he shares his reflections on politics, including controversial topics such as abortion, drug legalization, and gun control. This blog is done completely using personal time and personal resources, and is not affiliated with the company in any way: no mention of work-related matters, no links to the company website, etc. However, a search for the employee's name turns up these blog posts, so it is possible for clients and coworkers to come across the blog. Can the company ask the employee to delete the blog, or do employees have control over their personal lives and public personasé

An outsider has posted a blog post criticizing a company's recent move. The blog post contains some untrue assertions. Should bloggers from the company refute the blog posté

Best practices

Share the company's goals in terms of social computing.

Raise visibility

Contribute to industry

Be part of the conversation

Develop relationships with influencers

Provide an avenue for expression

Develop your guidelines together with your early adopters.

Involve early adopters in the discussion

IBM did it on a wiki

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So with IBMers blogging both inside and outside our Intranet environment, recognizing full well that it was time to formalize their support for what many of us had been doing for quite some time, the corporate communications and legal teams worked collaboratively with the IBM Blogging Community to draft the Corporate Blogging Guidelines copied below. The core principles -- -- are designed to guide IBMers as they figure out what they're going to blog about so they don't end up like certain notable ex-employees of certain notable other companies. They're also intended to communicate IBM's position on such practices as , covert marketing, and openly goading or berating competitors -- specifically, don't do it. As these guidelines were being drafted, we drew heavily upon our own experiences as bloggers and the excellent in this space graciously provided by , , and many others who have drafted policies and guidelines for their employees. written by IBM bloggers over a period of ten days using an internal wikiastroturfingprior artSunMicrosoftGroove

Provide guidance

Keep secrets.

Respect copyrights.

Obey the law.

Remember your business conduct guidelines.

Be nice.

Own your content.

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The posts on this blog are provided ‘as is’with no warranties and confer no rights. The opinions expressed on this site are my own and do not necessarily represent those of my employer.

Write as yourself. Be authentic.

Cite and link to your sources.

Contact PR when a member of the media contacts you.

Don't forget your day job.

When in doubt, contact your manager / blogger oversight committee.

Be cautious about offering advice

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7. Be cautious in how you offer support or adviceLenn mentions adhering to warranty rules. "If Scoble writes in his blog: 'Here’s how you fix a problem with your Tablet PC' and he's wrong, then the company can be held legally liable."http://blogwrite.blogs.com/blogwrite/2005/01/microsofts_empl.html

Provide guidance on what to do, not just what not to do.

Assemble an oversight committee.

Resources

Thomas Nelson Blogging Guidelines

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This blog post shares an easy-to-read set of blogging guidelines.

Policies Compared:

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Good analysis

IBM Blogging Guidelines (discussion)

Corporate guidelines for blogs and forums

Microsoft's Employee Guidelines for Successful Blogging