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Thursday, February 18, 2010

How Do I Start With Social Media Guidelines?

How Do I?

Social Media Guidelines or Policy: How Do I Start?

You're ready to get started with social media marketing. You've gone through intense soul searching and decided that engaging with existing and potential customers and sharing valuable, relevant content with them on an ongoing basis is the way to go. An important next step, particularly for a corporate or business blog, is developing social media policy or guidelines.

An Overview of Social Media Guidelines & Policies

Why? Because they force you to think about scenarios and let you anticipate responses. They allow you to set expectations for behavior and interaction - not too dissimilar from the rules your parents established when you were a kid.

Social media policy and guidelines fall into two camps:
+ internal guidelines
+ external or comment policy

Internal social media guidelines mean that everyone in your organization will understand what can be discussed in a public forum and what can't, and how to behave in such a forum: transparently, responsibly and consistently.

They are particularly relevant to large organizations where many may engage in industry conversations. In my Solutia days, I had to review and renew the employee code of conduct on a yearly basis. Although social media wasn't specifically mentioned, I understood completely what the communication boundaries consisted of. If I had questions, I knew who to ask and I understood the consequences.

From an external perspective, it's important to let your readers know what to expect on your social media site: what kind of discussion will you encourage, how you handle comments [are they moderated?], what about product complaints or transactional issues, whether your response will be timely...

I equate this to welcoming someone into your home or store or classroom, offering an overview of where things are and explaining a few rules [i.e., please leave your shoes as the door; here is the lay of the land; please don't interact with the students...].

Crafting Social Media Guidelines

What I find helpful at this stage is absorbing how other organizations have approached social media guidelines and policy. Not all of what they include may be relevant to me, but their guidelines may remind me of a point I missed or encourage me to address an area I had glossed over.

Here, then, are resources/ideas relating to internal and external social media policies.

+ Diva Marketing's Toby Bloomberg has assembled a marvelous list of social media policy examples. These are real examples from real companies. Note the variety of approaches, but also the commonalities.

+ I love this Mashable article about 10 Must-Haves for Your Social Media Policy. It includes a video clip of Barry Judge, CMO of Best Buy, explaining how increased transparency and trust provide value to customers. The means to this: the tools of social media. The post also includes a sample internal social media policy.

Some examples of social media comment policies:

+ Nuts About Southwest
+ Intel Blogs
+ Two I have written: Simple Marketing Blog and the Carpetology Blog

What would you add? Are there other examples you've come across? How did your social media guidelines help you anticipate certain scenarios?

Additional Information:
I wrote an article for the MProfs DailyFix titled "Which Comes First: the Policy or the Blog?" which refers to a few more examples.

Added 3/16/10: just came across PolicyTool for Social Media. If you give it a try, let me know what you think.

Added 5/31/10: How to Write a Social Media Policy from

Added 6/1/10: Policy guidelines For Mayo Clinic Employees

Added 2/2/11: Why You Need a Social Media Policy

Image credit: Wordle "How Do I" by C.B. Whittemore


  1. Great post Christine! Love the examples of what other companies are doing.

    Presenting a strong external social media and comment policy has been crucial in my organization. It definitely takes a little time to craft it to be appropriate for your particular business and to get buy-in from everyone on your team. But in the end it is well worth the effort!

  2. Devon,

    Your situation is particularly relevant and powerful. Thanks for the feedback. I look forward to watching how things evolve with your organization.


  3. CB - Thanks for bringing this important issue up for discussion. Crafting guidelines, as you mentioned, both internal and external, should be SOP prior to launching any social initiative.

  4. Toby, it's amazing how critical it is to set the stage first with guidelines. Devon is a great example of that. Thanks for adding to this discussion. Best, CB


Reminder: Please, no self-promotional or SPAM comments. Don't bother if you're simply trying to build inauthentic link juice. Finally, don't be anonymous: it's too hard to have a conversation. Thanks, CB

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