Create Your Community Policies – SMPG Community Building Checklist

In our previous post, Design Your Presence, we discussed how to architect your presence in your community, a part of our community building checklist.

In this post, we continue posting our exclusive checklist that you can use to execute your project for building your community – The Social Media Performance Group Community Building Checklist™. We discuss how to design your community policies.

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Create Your Policies

As part of your social media strategy, consider what policies should govern your enterprise’s social computing use

  • Establish, in writing, best practices and procedures
  • Ensure staff is on message
  • Empower staff to be proactive and participative
  • Position community as means to engage, not a distraction
  • Create Rules of Engagement
    • What to do with negative content
    • What to do with negative members (more later)
    • What to do with staff that blabs
    • Study how the US Air Force deals with various types of community members, in the next figure

Figure 1 — Air Force Web Posting Assessment Flowchart[1]

  • Decide whether to hold employees and other community members personally responsible for content they publish
  • Decide how staff should Identify themselves in posts
  • Decide if staff members who post elsewhere should add a disclaimer to their posts: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent [Organization’s] positions, strategies or opinions.”
  • Encourage all members to respect copyright, fair use and financial disclosure laws and set penalties for non-compliance
  • Confidentiality: Decide whether to prohibit citing or referencing clients, partners or suppliers without their approval
  • Create a linkback policy for material reposted from other sources
  • Create a prohibited language policy restricting hate speech, ethnic slurs, personal insults, obscenity
  • If you are regulated, ensure all employees understand what can and cannot be said online
    • Understand the legal ramifications of creating a public record or a public meeting by discussing topics online
    • User-Generated Content (UGC) may need to comply with policy, copyright, trademark
    • May need to treat information as part of records subject to retention policies
  • Be careful out there: Some laws may restrict your ability to censor employees online:
    • Political Opinions
        • Many states, (such as California) prohibit employers from regulating their employees’ political activities
        • Unionizing
        • In many states, talking or writing about unionizing is strongly protected; union contracts may permit blogging; states may protect “concerted” speech — protecting two or more people who discuss workplace conditions
    • Whistleblowing
        • Many may believe reporting regulatory violations or illegal activities online is protected, but whistleblowers must report problems to the appropriate regulatory or law enforcement bodies first
    • Reporting on Your Work for the Government
        • Government workers writing online about their work is protected speech under the First Amendment except for classified or confidential information
    • Legal Off-Duty Activities
        • Some states may protect an employee’s legal off-duty blogging, especially if the employer has no policy or an unreasonably restrictive policy with regard to off-duty speech activities
    • Reporting Outside Social Media Site Memberships
        • Some organizations require employees to report other places where they contribute online
    • Set Guidelines for At-Work Social Media Use
        • Most enterprises believe that at-work use of social media saps productivity, but some studies find just the opposite.
  • Review the following policies for ideas for your social media policy:[2]

Evolve Your Policies

Once the community is up and running, theory meets community practice, and you may need to evolve your rules

  • Establish periodic policy reviews
  • Involve your community in reviews
  • Set the stage by designing various forums around key issues of interest
  • Seed each forum with starter questions
  • Have a forum for newbies called “Introduce Yourself”
  • Have a forum called “What <product> Means to Me”

Create Your Community Policies is the 166th in a series of excerpts from our book, Be a Person: the Social Operating Manual for Enterprises (itself part of a series for different audiences). We’ve been doing this since 2011 and we’re just past page 407. At this rate it’ll still be a while before we get through all 430 pages, but luckily, if you’re impatient, the book is available in paper form at and you can save $5 using Coupon Code 6WXG8ABP2Infinite Pipeline book cover

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[1] Air Force Web Posting Assessment Flowchart v.2 (PDF):

[2] See for a great list of social media usage policies: