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Social Media Guidelines

By ICT Champions

This article provides a brief explanation of social media and an outline policy for responsible use of social media in your organisation

Introduction

‘Social media‘ is the term commonly given to websites and online tools which allow users to interact with each other in some way – by sharing information, opinions, knowledge and interests. Social media involves building communities or networks, encouraging participation and engagement.

Social media encompasses podcasts, ‘wikis’ (such as Wikipedia), message boards, social bookmarking websites (such as del.icio.us), social networking websites (such as twitter, facebookbebo, MySpace) and content sharing websites (such as flickr, YouTube).

The growing popularity of social media has attracted the attention of organisations and individuals as these platforms can open up new opportunities for communication. The opportunities are indeed there, as are the pitfalls. The following guidelines are there to provide you with information to make responsible decisions and to get the best out of the tools available.

Principles

These principles apply to your online participation in the context of being an employee of the organisation and set out the standard of behaviour expected in representing the organisation. You should participate in the use of social media the same way as you would with other media or public forums such as giving public presentations or speaking at public events.

We encourage positive representation and promotion of the organisation and therefore welcome staff in building upon this through use of social networking websites. You are representing our organisation and we trust you, so act accordingly.

o        Be professional; remember that you are an ambassador for our organisation. Wherever possible, disclose your position as a representative of the organisation.

o        Be responsible; and honest at all times. When you gain insight; share it with others where appropriate.

o        Be credible; accurate, fair, and thorough and make sure you are doing the right thing.

o        Be responsive; in a similar way to how you would respond to a letter or email. Visit and check frequently the online spaces and feeds where we have a presence or could be mentioned and respond positively and promptly to the conversations.

Always remember that participation online results in your comments being permanently available and open to being republished in other media. 

Social media encourages conversations and collaborations as its core, however never give out personal details like home address and phone numbers unless totally satisfied who the recipient is.

Also be aware that you may attract media interest in you as an individual, so proceed with care whether you are participating in an organisational or a personal capacity. If you have any doubts, take advice from your line manager.

Stay within legal frameworks and be aware that

Stay within legal frameworks and be aware that libel, defamation, copyright & data protection laws apply.

General Guidelines

Whether or not a staff member chooses to create or participate in a blog, wiki, online social network or any other form of online publishing or discussion is his or her own decision. However, emerging online collaboration platforms are fundamentally changing the way staff work and engage with each other, with members and other stakeholders.

Be aware that in other organisations and in other sectors members of staff have been dismissed because of their online activities. While such cases may be rare, it is important as an employee to be aware that posting information about our organisation cannot be isolated from your working life. Any information published online can be accessed around the world within seconds and will be publicly available for all to see and potentially to re-quote and re-post on other social networking websites.

As an employee, you must consider the following when using social media:

  1. These guidelines must be followed in addition to our standard Code of Practice on Internet use and our Acceptable use of Computer Facilities policies.  
  2. You must ensure that your online activities do not interfere or cause you to neglect your role in the organisation, your colleagues or commitments to members and clients. 
  3. Members of staff are personally responsible for content published and comments they leave on social media websites, views which could remain in the public domain for a considerable length of time.  
  4. When you discuss matters relating to the organisation, identify yourself with your real name and, when relevant, role in our organisation and write in the first person. You must make it clear that you are speaking for yourself and not on behalf of the organisation unless given authority to do so. 
  5. Be aware of your association with the organisation in online spaces. If you identify yourself as a member of staff in the organisation, ensure your profile and related content is consistent with how you wish to present yourself with colleagues, clients and members. 
  6. If you publish content or leave a comment on a social media website that is about the work or policy of the organisation or is related to services we provide, use a disclaimer such as “These views are my own and don’t necessarily represent the views of the organisation”  
  7. Ask and seek permission first to publish or report on conversations that are meant to be private or internal to the organisation. Respect copyright clauses and don’t make reference or quote members, clients or stakeholders without their approval. When you do make a reference, where possible link back to the source.  
  8. Respect the views of your audience. Don’t engage in behaviour that wouldn’t be acceptable in the workplace. You should also show proper consideration for others’ privacy and for topics that may be considered objectionable or inflammatory, for example relating to politics, race or religion. 
  9. Don’t be confrontational and be the first to correct your own mistakes, but don’t alter previous posts without indicating that you have done so.  
  10. Try to add value. Provide worthwhile information and perspective. Our organisation is best represented by the people who work here and care about its aims and policies. What you publish or comments you leave may reflect on us.

Effective participation in use of social media tools and on social networking sites is a two way conversational process. For a richly rewarding experience be prepared to learn from others and to share your insights when it adds value to the conversation rather than simply stating a position or delivering one way broadcasting.

Please note: Failure to comply with the above guidelines may result in disciplinary action 

NOTE – These guidelines have been compiled for information purposes only. Within the Creative Commons licence, please feel free to either use all sections or to discuss and adapt points for your own organisation and how your team communicate using social media.


About the author

ICT Champions
ICT Champions is a national programme of NAVCA funded by Capacity Builders until March 2011. Regional Champions have developed a series of resources providing signposting to help organisations use technology more efficiently and effectively

Glossary

Blog, Creative Commons Licence, Internet, Line, Network, Social Bookmarking, Website, Wiki

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Published: 28th October 2010

Copyright © 2010 ICT Champions

 

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abamaison
2nd February 2011You might want to take a look at these guides:

American Red Cross have some good material http://sites.google.com/site/wharman/social-media-strategy-handbook

EDF's New Social Media Guidelines: Why and How?
http://kiramarch.com/2010/03/edfs-new-social-media-guidelines-why-and-how/

NTEN tips for writing your first social media policy http://bit.ly/grELeR