Should my association have a social media policy? I get that question a lot. Short answer…yes. But what are we talking about here? This post is the first in a four-part series meant to clear up the confusion around policies that your association may need in order to make the most out of the social web.
Before we step into the world of guidelines, terms, disclaimers, and indemnity, let’s agree on this. The true goal of every type of social media or web policy should be to make interacting on the social web easier, more comfortable, and safer for your stakeholders. Period. That’s it. It’s not about covering yourself legally, though that’s a very important component. It’s not about regimenting what people can say and do in the space, though again, that may be a component. As many of my A-List blogger buddies say, always start from a position of trust. Good policies give you options in case that trust is ever broken.
And as David Gammel pointed out in response to the question, “Are we creating additional risk for the association by starting a blog?” (ASAE members can see the whole article here.)
The best measure for this question is to look at your current activities and programs. Do your speakers tend to get in trouble for antitrust issues now and then? Is your field or profession highly litigious? If you have a high level of legal risk already, then blogging is likely to have the same risks. If your area of discussion is free from such risks, then blogging won’t increase them significantly.
David was talking about blogging, but the same idea applies to the multitude of other social spaces on the web. Simply stated, you need to know your members and your risk, then design your policies accordingly.
So here’s how the series will likely unfold.
Part 2 – Policies for unofficial outposts
We’ll explore how your organization can set guidelines that encourage your employees and volunteers to participate responsibly in the social web.
Part 3 – Policies for official outposts
(Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, other social spaces where you plant your flag)
We’ll explore the relevance of terms and disclaimers in these spaces, how you might define guidelines for interaction, and how you might set guidelines for employees who are managing these spaces.
Part 4 – Policies for your homebases
(websites, blogs, internal social networks)
We’ll touch on the many policies surrounding your website–terms, disclaimers, privacy, copyright, and content policies, to name a few. We’ll touch on posting and commenting policies for blogs. We’ll look at policies for an internal social network.
One last thing. I’m not a lawyer. To work through your policies properly, you will likely need legal council. And there are a lot of ways to approach this topic. Please share your ideas and concerns throughout the series so we can all learn more.