Social Media Policy Sample Policy

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Excerpt from Social Media Strategies for Professionals and their Firms - All Rights Reserved

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Social Media Policy Sample Policy

  1. 1.               Social  Media  Policy     Protecting  Yourself  and  Your  Employees     When  There’s  Only  an  Illusion  of  Control                           By  Michelle  Golden               This  document  includes  adapted  excerpts  from     Social  Media  Strategies  for  Professionals  and  their  Firms:     The  Guide  to  Establishing  Credibility  and  Accelerating  Relationships     ©2010  John  Wiley  &  Sons     Not  for  duplication.     1  ©2010  Golden  Practices,  Inc.     michelle@goldenpractices.com  
  2. 2. THE ILLUSION OF CONTROLAs  much  as  companies  have  tried  over  the  last  decade  or  two  to  stifle  employee  access  of  third  party  email  sites  and  certain  other  websites,  it’s  simply  impossible  to  restrict  the  entire  Internet.  Anymore,  why  bother  to  lock  out  hotmail/yahoo  when  people  have  email  and  text  on  their  smart  phones?  The  lock  out  era  is  over.  It’s  counter-­‐productive  to  block  most  websites,  too.  Smart  people  who  like  a  challenge  (there  tend  to  be  quite  a  few  of  those  in  CPA  firms!)  will  dedicate  some  of  their  work  time  and  energy  to  finding  a  way  to  circumvent  the  ban.  Remember,  as  a  teenager,  the  thrill  of  stretching  or  breaking  a  rule  just  to  see  if  you  could  pull  it  off!  Concern  about  people  not  getting  their  work  done  is  the  real  issue  behind  the  bans,  anyway,  right?  Todays  reality  is  that  there  is  little  choice  now  but  to  trust  the  way  people  spend  their  “time”  is  appropriate,  overall,  and  simply  hold  people  accountable  for  the  end  result:  either  they  are  cutting  the  mustard  with  performance,  or  they  aren’t.  So,  don’t  spend  a  lot  of  energy  worrying  about  who  is  using  what  forum  and  instead,  if  issues  arise  at  the  individual  level  with  regard  to  performance,  then  address  problems  one-­‐on-­‐one  with  that  individual.    More  often  than  not,  fear  directed  toward  social  media  is  misplaced.  Be  careful  not  to  let  other  judgment  concerns  and  necessary  areas  of  education  seep  into  your  policies.  Disallowing  Linked  In,  Facebook,  Blogs  and  Twitter  (yes,  some  firms  still  block  some  or  all  of  these)  is  cutting  off  the  firm’s  nose  to  spite  its  face,  anyway.  These  are  valuable  tools  for  those  who  wish  to  use  them  for  business.  COMMUNICATIONS  POLICY  ELEMENTS  The  majority  of  “social  media”  concerns  are  quite  adequately  handled  under  policies  that  may  already  exist  and  can  easily  be  appended.    In  addition  to  the  first  three    fairly  standard  policy  areas,  there  are  just  a  few  remaining  items  specific  to  social  media  tools  that  could  be  added  in  a  fourth  category.    1  -­‐  Liability  disclaimers  2  -­‐  General  communications/behavior  3  -­‐  Internet  &  email  policies  4  -­‐  Specific  social  media  tool  policies  Remember,  when  it  comes  to  social  media,  people  need  to  feel  inspired,  not  controlled  (or  forced)  or  they  will  not  participate  effectively.  A  good  example  of  a  “purpose/policy”  example  that  inspires  more  than  controls  is  http://www.rightnow.com/privacy-­‐social.php.    Regarding  the  policy  samples  below,  here  is  my  own  disclaimer!  I’m  not  an  attorney.  For  your  unique  needs,  be  sure  to  review  policy  with  an  attorney—however,  try  to  find  one  who’s  not  more  fearful  of  social  media  than  your  firm!  Michelle’s  disclaimer  The  policy  recommendations  herein  are  not  guaranteed  for  completeness,  accuracy  and  legality.  Please  seek  the  counsel  of  informed  legal  counsel  who  are  well-­‐skilled  in  social  media  related  communications  (bloggers,  themselves  would  be  a  sign  of  this)  as  well  as  assistance  from  State  and  Federal  governmental  resources,  to  make  certain  your  legal  interpretations  and  decisions  are  correct.     2  ©2010  Golden  Practices,  Inc.     michelle@goldenpractices.com  
  3. 3.  1  -­‐  Liability  Disclaimers  Here  are  the  basic  legal  disclaimers  you’ll  want  to  include  for  public  access  on  your  firm-­‐sponsored  publications  such  as  blogs,  websites,  wikis,  or  any  other  firm-­‐owned  and  branded  web-­‐based  forum:   • Non-­‐specific  advice:  “This  information  is  of  a  general  nature,  not  intended  to  be  specific  professional  advice,   seek  the  opinion  of  a  professional  to  advise  you  in  your  unique  situation”   • IRS  Circular  230  Disclosure   • Your  firm’s  general  privacy  policy   • Individual  versus  firm  views:  “Authors’  opinions  are  their  own  and  do  not  represent  the  view  of  the   company.”   • Third  party  content:  “The  firm  is  not  responsible  for  the  accuracy  or  appropriateness  of  third-­‐party   comments  or  articles,  including  those  of  guest  authors  and  editorial  contributions.”    Specific  to  blogs,  print  newsletters,  or  other  forums  where  comments  or  “letters  to  the  editor”  are  allowed:  “Comments,  letters,  and  other  submissions  are  moderated,  and  may  be  edited  or  withheld  at  the  sole  discretion  of  the  firm.”  Employee  Liability  Another  consideration  for  your  overall  communications  policy  is  employee  liability.  You  may  wish  to  inform  employees  about  their  own,  personal  liability  regarding  their  writings  and  verbal  statements,  as  well.  A  sample  written  by  Susan  Heathfield  on  About.com1  would  be:   Your  Legal  Liability  Component  of  the  Communications  Policy   Recognize  that  you  are  legally  liable  for  anything  you  write  or  present  online  or  in  print.  Employees  can  be   disciplined  by  the  company  for  commentary,  content,  or  images  that  are  defamatory,  pornographic,   proprietary,  harassing,  libelous,  or  that  can  create  a  hostile  work  environment.  You  can  also  be  sued  by   employees,  competitors,  and  any  individual  or  company  that  views  your  work  as  such.  2  -­‐  General  Communication  Policy    Whether  pertaining  to  verbal,  print,  or  on-­‐line  communications,  these  are  excellent  “groundrules”  you  might  consider  applying.   Be  polite  and  sincere.   o Use  impeccable  manners,  even  when  you  disagree.   o Listen  first,  and  always  in  proportion  to  ears  and  mouth.   o Discrimination,  harassment,  and  slanderous  comments  are  not  acceptable.   o Always  speak  respectfully  of  the  competition  and  current  or  past  employees.   o Even  when  feedback  is  negative,  begin  a  reply  by  thanking  the  person  for  sharing  their   thoughts,  feelings,  or  concerns.                                                                                                                  1 Susan  Heathfield,  About.com  Guide,  “Blogging  and  Social  Media  Policy  Sample,”  undated.  http://humanresources.about.com/od/policysamplesb/a/blogging_policy.htm   3  ©2010  Golden  Practices,  Inc.     michelle@goldenpractices.com  
  4. 4. Be  positive.   o There  are  two  ways  to  present  things:  glass  half-­‐full  or  half-­‐empty.  For  best  results,   encourage  the  half-­‐full  presentation  among  all  team  members,  at  all  times.   o Remember  what  grandma  said,  “if  you  have  nothing  nice  to  say,  don’t  say  anything  at  all.”   Be  professional.   o Behave  with  honor  and  integrity.   o Make  promises  you  intend  to  keep,  and  keep  them.   o Avoid  self-­‐aggrandizing  or  shameless  self-­‐promotion.   o Speak  on  behalf  of  the  company  ONLY  if  specifically  permitted  by  your  manager,   otherwise,  employees  are  not  authorized  to  speak  on  behalf  of  the  company,  nor   represent  that  you  do  so.   o Properly  and  generously  cite  original  sources  (including  links  when  appropriate)  to  credit   the  original  conveyer  of  an  idea  or  information.     o Be  sensitive  to,  and  respect,  any  personal/business  boundaries  set  by  others.  Recognize   that  there  is  no  assurance  of  a  clear  line  between  these  (information  you  share  personally   may  arise  in  your  business  life).     o Be  transparent  online  disclosing  your  identity  and  affiliation  with  the  firm  and  clients  (as   appropriate)  where  it  could  be  perceived  that  you  are  promoting  professional  or  personal   interests  in  a  non-­‐straightforward  manner.     o Use  your  name—not  an  alias,  and  never  be  anonymous  with  your  postings.   o Only  say  things  you  won’t  mind  seeing  again,  including  in  a  court,  or  in  front  of  your   spouse  or  mother.   Keep  confidentiality  of  clients  and  the  company.     o Always  protect  client  confidentiality.   o This  includes  information  about  sales,  finances,  clients’  identities,  company  strategy,  and   any  other  information  that  has  not  been  publicly  released  by  the  company.   o Seek  permission  of  clients,  fellow  employees,  business  partners  or  suppliers,  before   naming  or  quoting  them  in  any  written  piece,  or  showing,  uploading,  or  tagging  a  photo  or   video  of  them  online  or  in  print.    3  -­‐  Internet  and  Email  Policy  IT  security  needs  and  approaches  change  constantly  and  I  don’t  profess  to  be  an  IT  expert.  It’s  my  understanding,  though,  that  the  highest  source  risk  for  trojans  and  viruses  is  still  considered  to  be  email,  and  that  websites  are  secondary.  These  suggested  policy  items  cover  the  big  bases  for  Internet  best  practices  in  a  professional  firm.   • All  suspicious  links  and  attachments,  even  from  friends,  should  be  avoided.  Never  click  or  open   links/attachments  from  people  you  don’t  know.  Even  if  you  do  know  them,  don’t  open  the  file  unless  you   are  expecting  it.  Not  sure,  ask.   • Do  not  download  programs/applications  from  the  web—including  third-­‐party  Facebook  or  Twitter   applications—using  office  computers,  without  first  obtaining  permission  from  the  IT  department  to  ensure   the  applications  are  legitimate.   • Streaming  video/audio  are  bandwidth  hogs  that  slow  performance  of  the  firm’s  network.  Use  them   sparingly  and  be  aware  you  may  be  asked  to  refrain  from  accessing  these  types  of  files  at  times  of  heavy   demand.   • Take  care  to  avoid  inappropriate  websites  using  company  resources  (improper  trade,  porn,  games,  etc).   • Email  communications  and  all  other  transmissions  (text,  IM  etc)  are  permanent,  never  assured  to  be  private,   and  are  “discoverable”  by  law.  Never  send  sensitive  client  or  firm  information  via  unsecured  means.     4  ©2010  Golden  Practices,  Inc.     michelle@goldenpractices.com  
  5. 5. • Email  correspondence  should  follow  the  same  professional  standards  as  written  correspondence.  And  never   manage  emotionally  charged,  or  highly  sensitive  situations  via  email—it  does  not  replace  real  conversation.  4  -­‐  Social  Media  Specific  Policy  Social  media  tools  fall  into  two  categories:  1)  firm-­‐sponsored  publications/forums  that  include  blogs  and  websites,  and  2)  outside  forums  such  as  Twitter,  Facebook  and  LinkedIn.  The  items  below  pertain  to  both  unless  otherwise  specified.   Quoting  Others     o Keep  verbatim  quotes  as  short  as  possible,  indent  them,  cite  and  link  to  the  original   source.   o Know  and  abide  by  Creative  Commons  Licensing  terms  (www.creativecommons.org).     o Always  use  “trackbacks”  wherever  possible.   o Ask  permission  to  quote  someone/something  if  the  information  is  not  already  public  (see   General  Communications  Policy).   Photos     o Become  familiar  with  Creative  Commons  Licensing  (www.creativecommons.org)  terms.   Only  use  photos  (such  as  those  found  on  flickr,  etc)  with  appropriate  permissions  and   citation.     o Make  sure  images  are  properly  credited  by  citing  the  source  and  photographer,  if   appropriate.   o Obtain  permission  to  display  photos  of  others  (see  General  Communications  Policy).   Comments   o Respond  promptly  to  legitimate  comments  (see  General  Communications  Policy).   o Be  considerate  about  engaging  in  private  feedback  where  most  appropriate.   o On  other  blogs,  post  meaningful,  respectful  comments—in  other  words,  no  self-­‐ promotional  verbiage  (SPAM)  and  no  remarks  that  are  off-­‐topic  or  offensive.   o Always  try  to  add  to  the  discussion  constructively  and  ultimately  to  add  value.   Recommendations  or  Endorsements   o Providing  positive  recommendations  for  people  outside  the  firm  is  encouraged,  but   recommendations  for  current  employees  cannot  be  permitted  due  to  Human  Resources   potential  liabilities.     o Financial  advisors,  RIAs,  and  other  wealth  advisory  firms  only:  Accepting  for  public  posting   any  recommendations  received  from  clients  is  not  permitted  in  accordance  with  SEC  rules   against  use  of  testimonials  in  any  form.  Non-­‐firm  sponsored  blogs  In  the  event  employees  start  their  own  blog,  you  may  wish  to  incorporate  something  like  the  following  into  your  firm’s  policy:     If  an  employee’s  non-­‐firm  sponsored  blog  or  website  makes  it  clear  that  the  author  works  for  the  firm,  it   should  include  a  simple  and  visible  disclaimer  such  as  “these  are  my  personal  views  and  not  those  of   [FIRM].”  Some  firms  ask  employees  to  adhere  to  some  guidelines  in  their  non-­‐firm  forums  and  communications.  A  nice,  simple  policy  would  be  for  use  in  such  a  situation  follows.  The  concepts  within  are  solid  enough  that  this  could  serve  as  the  firm’s  “social  media  policy.”     5  ©2010  Golden  Practices,  Inc.     michelle@goldenpractices.com  

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