Create Your Internal Social Media Policy

In our previous posts, we’ve examined how you can begin to engage your social media community and create a plan to engage them. Now let’s take a look at how you can create an internal social media policy. By first understanding how to use social media behind the firewall, you can lay the groundwork for your external social media policy.

Social Media Engagement

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Sections of Your Internal Social Media Policy

Here are some suggested headings for your enterprise’s social media policy.

  • Company Philosophy — Clearly define why your organization is using social media, what its goals are, and its general approach — formal, informal, collegial, peer-to-peer. Use this to ensure that all social media participants have a common understanding of the basics of your approach.
  • Definition of Social Networking — It may not be immediately apparent what kinds of sites or activities your policy refers to. Is tagging photos on Flickr[1] included? How about helping create a wiki on someone else’s site?[2] Be sure all involved understand the domain your policy covers. You may decide the policy covers all Internet activities, including email and instant messaging.
  • Identifying Oneself as an Employee of the Organization — This could get tricky for some enterprises, especially if you are in a regulated industry. Should you require employees to identify themselves as part of your organization? When? Should all who speak in your name post disclaimers (comments do not reflect the opinions of [enterprise])? We recommend that you limit this type of requirement because we think the best way to use social media is to Be a Person.
  • Recommending Others — You may want to have a policy about recommending others outside your enterprise. You may be concerned that the common social networking practice of recommending others may be construed not as a personal recommendation by a staffer, but as your organization recommending the person or group.
  • Referring to Clients or Partners — Your enterprise may have guidelines about referencing clients, especially about revealing Personally Identifiable Information. Similarly, you may have a policy about revealing the identity of, or otherwise referring to, your partners. Make sure you cover these policies in your social media policy.
  • Proprietary or Confidential Information — Your organization probably has a policy about revealing proprietary of confidential information. Incorporate this policy explicitly into your social media policy.
  • Terms of Service, Privacy, Copyright and other Legal Issues — If you create social media areas of your enterprise’s Website, or if you create your own online community, you’ll want to spell out the terms under which you provide services. Google “terms of service” to see how other providers handle this matter. You’ll also want to post a privacy policy and a notice of copyright if it is appropriate. Note that if you don’t want to restrict all uses of the material in your social media site, you can use the Creative Commons Copyleft process, which allows you to reserve only some rights to your content, while encouraging others to otherwise use or modify it. Find out more at the Creative Commons Website.[3]
    • Productivity— Pretty much every enterprise worries about the affect social media can have on the productivity of its workers. There are lots of studies that prove that generally the negative impact is non-existent or negligible.A July, 2009 study[4] by Nucleus Research found that companies who allowed employees to access their Facebook sites during work hours could expect to see total office productivity decline by an average of only 1.5 percent.

On the other hand, an Australian study[5] showed an increase in productivity among social networking users. “People who do surf the Internet for fun at work — within a reasonable limit of less than 20 percent of their total time in the office — are more productive by about 9 percent than those who don’t,” said Dr Brent Coker, from the University of Melbourne’s Department of Management and Marketing.

Because of the potential benefits of staff use of social networking, we recommend a policy that stresses that social media use should not interfere with normal duties, and spells out how much use is acceptable.

  • Disciplinary Action — Going hand in glove with the acceptable use policy should be a policy on discipline for staff whose productivity suffers due to excessive social networking use.

Your organization may develop other policies for social media use, but if you cover the points above, you should have a good basis for your initial social media policy. Like everything else regarding social computing, you’ll probably revise your policies as you and your enterprise learn how best to use this technology.

Next up: Sample Internal Social Media Policy

Create Your Internal Social Media Policy is the 24th in a series of excerpts from our book, Be a Person: the Social Media Operating Manual for Enterprises (itself part of a series for different audiences). At this rate it’ll be a long time 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 62YTRFCV

See the previous posts What is Social Media?Social Sites DefinedWhy Social Media? How is Social Media Relevant to Business? First Steps Toward a Social Media Strategy, and Decide What Your Business Will Do About Social Computing, pt. 1

[1] Flickr is an image and video hosting website and online community:

[2] Wiki definition: a Website that allows the easy creation and editing of interlinked Web pages via a Web browser, generally around one or more common themes. The most famous wiki is Wikipedia:

[3] Creative Commons is an alternative to copyright:

[4] Nucleus Research is global provider of research and advisory services:

[5] “Freedom to surf: workers more productive if allowed to use the internet for leisure,” University of Melbourne: