Social networking polices
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  • 1. Social Networking PolicesSocial Networking can be broadly described as communications between andamong individuals utilizing Web sites and services that open these conversations toa larger audience. Often these communications are more timely, informal, brief andless refined than traditional business and marketing communications. They alsolend to more personal and conversational approaches to the topics that are beingdiscussed.Examples of social networking include “blogs” (short for web logs which serve as anonline journal), YouTube videos, shared bookmarks, the Twitter micro-bloggingservice and networking Web sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn. All thesechannels of content communication share a common trait of encouraging rapidconversations to be shared with a wider audience.While these channels offer great opportunities for reaching and engaging clients,members, prospects and other potential allies, they also represent risk. Rapid, un-vetted conversations that make their way to a wider audience can potentially getyou into a lot of trouble.This article references and summarizes other writings on the subject of socialnetworking best practices in the hope of giving the reader a starting point fordeveloping their own policies. Please keep in mind that this author is a lowlyWebmaster and suggests that an attorney review any formal documentation orpolices an organization adopts.Components of a Social Networking PolicySteven C. Bennett of Jones Day writes in the Metropolitan Corporate Council Website on the topic of Social Networking Policies: Best Practices For Companies(http://www.metrocorpcounsel.com/current.php?artType=view&artMonth=January&artYear=2010&EntryNo=10521). In it hedescribes many of the key components of a social networking company policydocument that can be shared as part of an employee handbook. A couple interestingissues that he addresses include 1) the idea that employees are adequately trainedand competent in the social networks they participate in and 2) working with alawyer to determine what steps a company can legally take in using socialnetworking sites as part of employment decisions. However, there are a number ofother concerns he talks about in the article.Formulating a Social Networking StrategyAn informative primer on how about addressing social networking is provided byProfessor Kaye D. Sweetser of the University of Georgia. In a blog post(http://www.kayesweetser.com/archives/206) she provides some guidelines for
  • 2. entering into social networking. She recommends addressing social networking inthree steps; 1) monitoring social networks to see what is being said about acompany, 2) engaging individuals through social networks and 3) hosting one’s ownspace on a social network, such as having a Facebook page.Overall, the article encourages an approach to social networks where theparticipants first and foremost understand the context and culture of the socialnetwork and make sure that this culture fits with that of the company. Dr Sweetseralso recommends not using social networks as simply a venue to rebroadcast pressreleases, but rather focus on content that engages the audience in that network.Hosting Social Networking and PrivacyA final component of social networking best practices includes the issue of privacy,particularly the privacy of individuals participating in a social network that ishosted by the company, such as a bulletin board or even comments that may beposted on a blog. Companies should state in their privacy policies how contentcontributed by their users or visitors can be used by the site, along with how anypersonal information gathered for purpose of engagement can be used in otheractivities. A testimonial, for example.Some software may come with its own privacy policy template, such as phpBB(http://www.phpbb.com/community/ucp.php?mode=privacy).ConclusionThis article only touches on some of the issues to consider when engaging socialnetworking, but is a good starting point for planning policies and strategies. A keytheme that comes across when researching social networking is to address it as aformal communications channel. In other words, treat social networks the sameway you would treat a press release, making sure that it meets the same standardsfor quality and doesn’t include information that shouldn’t be released. If hostingyour own social network, make sure that your privacy policy addresses visitor’sparticipation and how you can use the information they contribute.