What should be in your social media policy?

It's not often that policies generate buzz, but then it's not often that Apple's social media policy is leaked to the outside world.  The policy was interesting for its almost exact mirroring of the way Steve Jobs went about his work.

What Apple employees can and cannot do online

Here are a few snippets from the Apple social media policy

  • Employees can have their own website but cannot use them to discuss Apple or Apple products
  • Employees must not comment on Apple related websites
  • Blogs, wikis, social networks and other tools should not be used for communication among fellow employees.
  • No speculating on rumours is allowed. This includes confirming or denying any information concerning new products, Apple regulations or services.

It goes on, with dedicated sections for how to behave on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Their publishing guidelines suggest that you should assume anything you write is in the public domain, regardless of the privacy settings you believe protect you.

The policy revolves around 5 core principles however.

  1. Honesty. Demonstrate honesty and high ethical standards in all business dealings.
  2. Respect. Treat customers, suppliers, employees, and others with respect and courtesy.
  3. Confidentiality. Protect the confidentiality of Apple’s information and the information of our customers, suppliers, and employees.
  4. Community. Conduct business in a way that benefits the communities in which we operate.
  5. Compliance. Ensure that business decisions comply with all applicable laws and regulations.
Obviously it's interesting to see details of the policy of such a large and respected company.  No two companies are the same however.  So what should go into your own social media policy?
6 steps to creating your social media policy
  1. What do you want to achieve?  The first step is to determine the purpose of your policy, how it will interact with your social media strategy and what goals you'll have in place to measure things.
  2. Who is it for?  Do you have an individual charged with using social media?  Do you want other staff, volunteers and stakeholders using social media on your behalf?
  3. What can they say?  Apple were very clear over what staff could or could not say online.  Lets be clear here, staff can be your biggest cheerleaders, but you need to give them guidelines on what is right and what is wrong.  Who do they need to go to for support if a problem falls outside their knowledge for instance.
  4. How can they say it?  The culture of your organisation dictates how you expect people to behave when interacting both with each other and with the outside world.  Apply this to social media.  How do you respond to customer complaints for instance?  Do you have a tone when talking with customers?  
  5. Where can they say it?  Do you want staff to engage mainly on your own community or on social networks like Facebook and Twitter?  
  6. When can they comment?  This isn't prescriptive, but it helps to give staff guidelines on when they'll be expected to comment online.  

Social media is such a wide and varied environment that it's very difficult to copy social media policies from one organisation to another.  These questions should help to guide you in the creation of your own policy though.

What steps did you take to create your own policy?


3 thoughts on “What should be in your social media policy?

  1. I don't think the Apple policy is that amazing really. No idea why it's caused such a fuss, I mean surely it's nearly identical to every other social media policy out there?

    • It seems over zealous to me. First rule of working for Apple…. don't talk about Apple.

      They're fortunate that they have never been short of buzz around them or their product. Most other companies can't afford to cut off employees from acting as social media ambassadors.

  2. Kinda ironic isn't it that the leak of the social media policy of Apple would probably have been enough to get whoever did it fired, yet it's spawned so many useful debates about what a social media policy should contain.

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