Saturday, February 20, 2010

Social Media Policy

In updating the company's online policy the following is being submitted for consideration. What do you think? Would you like this policy, or not? 

There is increasing interest at the company in using online communication as a means of both connecting with our community and for the dissemination of information, specifically using social media tools. These activities provide a number of benefits, and we understand our employees may want to participate both personally and professionally. This Social Media Online guide is created to state company policy and educate employees on best practices as they enter into both company and personal online communications.

Briefly, this guide will direct you to:
  • Receive authorization per project before speaking online on behalf of the company

  • Treat proprietary information with complete confidentiality

  • If you plan to mention the company on your personal site, identify yourself as an employee and note the views expressed belong solely to you

  • Do not use company logo without permission in writing

  • Regard company online venues with the same respect as the physical workplace

  • Use language that is respectful to the company, customers, competitors and employees

  • Comply with all applicable laws and legal issues

  • Ensure that your online activity does not interfere with your primary work responsibilities

The intention of this guide is not to prevent staff from conducting legitimate activities on the Internet, but to communicate those areas in which conflicts can arise. Employees are responsible for regularly reviewing the terms of this Online Policy.

Communication Formats
There are several types of online platforms that your department may want to engage in, including the following:

Blogs and discussion forums: sites maintained by businesses, community groups, non-profits, government, media entities, or private individuals to post information, ideas, suggestions or opinion on various issues. They may or may not be open for comments.

Video sharing: sites that allow organizations and individuals to distribute, share and stream video and other audio visual material online, an example is YouTube.

Wikis: online warehouses of information much like an encyclopedia, but where individuals and organizations contribute or edit the information. The most well-known is Wikipedia.

Social Networking: online directories or gathering sites that connect people through social, professional, or other networks. These often include a range of communication devices—blogs, instant messaging, picture sharing ( Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn).

Authorized communications & use of corporate email
Unless given permission by company leadership, you are not authorized to speak on behalf of the company, nor to imply or represent that you do so.

Should you receive authorization, our Information Technology department (IT) will create a user ID on the targeted social network using your corporate email address and will communicate the initial account password to you. Thereafter, you will receive an account activation e-mail directly from the social networking service.

Once your account is set up, downloading and installing plug-ins or helper applications such as those that try to access the company e-mail directory, or other proprietary property is prohibited.

Unless authorized by the company, you should not use your company email to connect to sites used as a private individual. In some instances, such as for professional sites (e.g., LinkedIN) your individual department may authorize use of your corporate email. Make sure you know what is acceptable before connecting.

Whether external or internal, such as our intranet site SharePoint®, company online venues are subject to the same standards that apply in a physical work environment as set out in the Employee Handbook. Your actions in both venues should reflect company core values.

Individual department use of online forums
Departments may desire to establish communication forums to support their division’s goals. These may be ongoing or they may be established for a specific time, limited proposal or initiative. They may be open to the public, or confined to a particular group of stakeholders, to disseminate information, clarify misinformation, to canvas or survey stakeholders, retain current subscribers or advertisers, or recruit new ones.

Forums might also be used to support product marketing (referral networks, advertising, testimonials, focus groups), create custom network applications (a.k.a. plugins) for product and brand promotion or integration with the company’s own online services, monitor public opinion about the company, its products and services, or its competitors.

In order not to duplicate efforts or service, departments are asked to provide an outline of their project to the Web Tactics Group (WTG) including:
  • A clear statement of purpose
  • Terms and conditions for staff participation
  • Targets or goals and how they will be measured

When company equipment or sites are being used the company has an obligation to monitor such usage. The department or task force responsible for the online group agrees they will regularly moderate and monitor group and staff activity. They will also ensure that company use of the social network complies with the individual external social network’s Terms of Service (TOS) or Terms of Use (TOU), as applicable.

Departments may wish to establish internal collaboration systems (blogs, wikis, and social networks) to facilitate workplace communication, collaborate with or develop customers, or test ideas or venues. Safeguards need to be put in place to ensure that communication created solely for the use of employees including internal discussion and debate remain in-house.

Social networking activities are not to interfere with your primary job responsibilities.

Confidential Information
You may not share information that is confidential, proprietary or intended solely for company use. This includes information on finances, advertising or circulation revenues, company strategy, customers, employees, upcoming projects, products, and any other information that has not been publicly released by the company. These are given as examples only, and do not cover the range of what the company considers confidential and proprietary.

Care should be taken before disclosing anything that could potentially harm the company, or its current and potential employees, customers or products. If you have any question or uncertainty about whether information has been released to the public, or should be discussed by you, speak with your manager or director.

Respect the privacy rights of those currently or previously under our employ by seeking their permission before writing about or displaying internal company happenings that might be considered to be a breach of their privacy and confidentiality. Be considerate by removing information when asked to do so.

Under no circumstance should offensive comments be made about staff or colleagues. This may amount to cyber-bullying and could be deemed a disciplinary offence.

Common sense and courtesy
Common sense is the best guide should you decide to post information in any way relating to the company, its employees or competitors. If you are developing a Web-site or writing a blog that will mention these areas, identify that you are an employee of the company, that the views expressed on your site belong solely to you and do not necessarily represent the views of the company. If you need help crafting this statement please contact IT for examples.

As a courtesy to the company, when engaging in online activities that mention the company its employees, or competitors, please let your manager know and discuss any potential conflicts of interest.

Your manager may choose to visit your site from time to time to understand your point of view.

Use of company logos or links
Yes, you may provide a link from the company’s site to yours, but company logos and trademarks may not be used without explicit permission in writing from the company. This is to prevent the appearance that you officially speak for, or represent the company in venues where you do not. is an extension of our workplace. Each employee is provided with a log-in and profile page and is bound by the posted terms and conditions of use.

Because it is a public venue, care should be exercised by employees when contributing:

  • Do post material to the site that is relevant to the issues being discussed
  • Do represent your own views and not impersonate or falsely represent any other person
  • Do protect your personal privacy, and that of others, by not including personal information or pictures you are not authorized to use
  • Do not be abusive, harass or threaten others
  • Do not make defamatory or libelous comments
  • Do not use insulting, provocative or hateful language
  • Do not use obscene or offensive language
  • Do not post material that infringes the intellectual property rights of others

Contractors and Consultants
In addition to covering ongoing and intermittent employees, company guidelines also apply to consultants and contractors who may be engaged under administrative contract to assist in the management or operation of company communications. Departments initiating contracts should ensure that a requirement to comply with company guidelines is included in those contracts.

Applicable Law
This guide is meant to outline and communicate company policy and offer additional guidance. It is the duty of the individual to understand all applicable laws.

You are legally responsible for your postings, and therefore may be subject to liability if your posts are found defamatory, harassing, or in violation of any other applicable law. You may also be liable if you make postings which include confidential or copyrighted information (music, videos, text, etc.) belonging to third parties, all of which are prohibited under this online policy.

In your role as an employee you are prohibited from receiving remuneration for offering product opinions, and may also be liable on your personal blog should you receive remuneration for offering product opinions. For information from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on endorsements:

Be informed, act wisely
Once information and views are released into the public domain, they can spread quickly, and can easily be subject to distortion and misrepresentation, and despite disclaimers, your online interaction can result in members of the public forming opinions about the company, employees, customers, and/or products. The company encourages you to write knowledgeably and accurately and to take care to in your communications to separate your individual opinions and postings from implications that could imply they reflect those of the company.

The online community is based on relationships and trust. the company asks you to demonstrate you value our relationship by acting professionally.

Social safely,’ and build a strong, vibrant community beginning in 98660.
Weigh in in the comments section: would you like this policy, or not?