PolicyTool for Social Media is a policy generator that greatly simplifies the task of creating a working social media policy. Answer about a dozen and odd questions and before you can hop across to Facebook, your policy is ready for your to copy paste anywhere.
Based on my answers (and relative lack of paranoia) here's what a policy for my own company (if and when I start one) would look like:
MisEntropy Social Media Policy
MisEntropy employees are free to publish or comment via social media in accordance with this policy. MisEntropy employees are subject to this policy to the extent they identify themselves as a MisEntropy employee (other than as an incidental mention of place of employment in a personal blog on topics unrelated to MisEntropy).
Publication and commentary on social media carries similar obligations to any other kind of publication or commentary.
All uses of social media must follow the same ethical standards that MisEntropy employees must otherwise follow.
It's perfectly acceptable to talk about your work and have a dialog with the community, but it's not okay to publish confidential information. Confidential information includes things such as unpublished details about our software, details of current projects, future product ship dates, financial information, research, and trade secrets. We must respect the wishes of our corporate customers regarding the confidentiality of current projects. We must also be mindful of the competitiveness of our industry.
Protect your own privacy
Privacy settings on social media platforms should be set to allow anyone to see profile information similar to what would be on the MisEntropy website. Other privacy settings that might allow others to post information or see information that is personal should be set to limit access. Be mindful of posting information that you would not want the public to see.
Do not blog anonymously, using pseudonyms or false screen names. We believe in transparency and honesty. Use your real name, be clear who you are, and identify that you work for MisEntropy. Nothing gains you notice in social media more than honesty - or dishonesty. Do not say anything that is dishonest, untrue, or misleading. If you have a vested interest in something you are discussing, point it out. But also be smart about protecting yourself and your privacy. What you publish will be around for a long time, so consider the content carefully and also be cautious about disclosing personal details.
Respect copyright laws
It is critical that you show proper respect for the laws governing copyright and fair use or fair dealing of copyrighted material owned by others, including MisEntropy own copyrights and brands. You should never quote more than short excerpts of someone else's work, and always attribute such work to the original author/source. It is good general practice to link to others' work rather than reproduce it.
Respect your audience, MisEntropy, and your coworkers
The public in general, and MisEntropy's employees and customers, reflect a diverse set of customs, values and points of view. Don't say anything contradictory or in conflict with the MisEntropy website. Don't be afraid to be yourself, but do so respectfully. This includes not only the obvious (no ethnic slurs, offensive comments, defamatory comments, personal insults, obscenity, etc.) but also proper consideration of privacy and of topics that may be considered objectionable or inflammatory - such as politics and religion. Use your best judgment and be sure to make it clear that the views and opinions expressed are yours alone and do not represent the official views of MisEntropy.
Protect MisEntropy customers, business partners and suppliers
Customers, partners or suppliers should not be cited or obviously referenced without their approval. Never identify a customer, partner or supplier by name without permission and never discuss confidential details of a customer engagement. It is acceptable to discuss general details about kinds of projects and to use non-identifying pseudonyms for a customer (e.g., Customer 123) so long as the information provided does not violate any non-disclosure agreements that may be in place with the customer or make it easy for someone to identify the customer. Your blog is not the place to "conduct business" with a customer.
If you see misrepresentations made about MisEntropy in the media, you may point that out. Always do so with respect and with the facts. If you speak about others, make sure what you say is factual and that it does not disparage that party. Avoid arguments. Brawls may earn traffic, but nobody wins in the end. Don't try to settle scores or goad competitors or others into inflammatory debates. Make sure what you are saying is factually correct.
Be the first to respond to your own mistakes
If you make an error, be up front about your mistake and correct it quickly. If you choose to modify an earlier post, make it clear that you have done so. If someone accuses you of posting something improper (such as their copyrighted material or a defamatory comment about them), deal with it quickly - better to remove it immediately to lessen the possibility of a legal action.
Think About Consequences
For example, consider what might happen if a MisEntropy employee is in a meeting with a customer or prospect, and someone on the customer's side pulls out a print-out of your blog and says "This person at MisEntropy says that product sucks."
Saying "Product X needs to have an easier learning curve for the first-time user" is fine; saying "Product X sucks" is risky, unsubtle and amateurish.
Once again, it's all about judgment: using your blog to trash or embarrass MisEntropy, our customers, or your co-workers, is dangerous and ill-advised.
Many social media users include a prominant disclaimer saying who they work for, but that they're not speaking officially. This is good practice and is encouraged, but don't count on it to avoid trouble - it may not have much legal effect.
Wherever practical, you must use a disclaimer saying that while you work for MisEntropy, anything you publish is your personal opinion, and not necessarily the opinions of MisEntropy.
Don't forget your day job.
Make sure that blogging does not interfere with your job or commitments to customers.
Social Media Tips
The following tips are not mandatory, but will contribute to successful use of social media.
The best way to be interesting, stay out of trouble, and have fun is to write about what you know. There is a good chance of being embarrassed by a real expert, or of being boring if you write about topics you are not knowledgeable about.
Quality matters. Use a spell-checker. If you're not design-oriented, ask someone who is whether your blog looks decent, and take their advice on how to improve it.
The speed of being able to publish your thoughts is both a great feature and a great downfall of social media. The time to edit or reflect must be self-imposed. If in doubt over a post, or if something does not feel right, either let it sit and look at it again before publishing it, or ask someone else to look at it first.
Policy violations will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination for cause.
Image source: fredcavazza