This post is the fourth in a 4-part series on social media policies. In this part, we’re looking at homebase policies–policies that apply to your own website, blogs, and hosted online communities. These might include terms of service, privacy policies, content and copyright policies, and posting/commenting policies. (Remember, I’m not a lawyer. I’m just laying out what I’ve learned from many smart people, including Leslie White. You should talk to your lawyer about the contents of this post before you act on it.)
Circle of Trust
Even though your website, your blog, and your whitelabel social networks serve different purposes, they’re all essentially homebases–when a person arrives at the party, they know your organization is the host who’s paying the mortgage. If you think about it, all three spaces are part of your organization’s circle of trust. The policies you create will set expectations for who is in the circle, and how to stay in the circle. The trick is to have the policy in place, then enforce it wisely. Otherwise you might find yourself outside the circle of trust in your own homebase.
Who are the people your policies will affect?
Everyone, but content creators will be more affected than passive readers. So it’s important to have your creators in mind while you are crafting your policies.
What risks are you trying to mitigate?
Antitrust, defamation, and copyright infringement. If you’re facilitating user-generated content in your homebases, you’ll also be managing risk of misinformation and brand confusion.
Policies for your website
For a policy to be enforceable, there needs to be a link to it from any page on your website. That’s why you often see them in the footer. On the American Chemical Society website, for example, the footer contains all of the following…
Policies for your blog
As for commenting/posting policies, part of building a community on your blog is to do as little as possible to hinder conversation. Sometimes, policies can be misinterpreted as rules or handcuffs. Unless you have specific concerns, antitrust for example, my preference would be to wait and create your policies in response to a specific incident. That way your readers will know that you are protecting them rather than limiting them. Here’s how Darren Rowse of ProBlogger fame handled a sticky situation with comments.
Policies for your online communities/social networks
You’ve probably noticed that most social networks have a checkbox “I agree to the terms of service.” But how many people actually read the terms of service? It’s not like they have a choice. But we all check it dutifully and move on. Can you sum up your terms of service in a single sentence? Here’s a huge personality moment. Give them the short “translation” before launching into the hole legalese, and set the tone for a true, open, and transparent online community experience.
Summing up four posts in one sentence
Trust your peeps to do the right thing, and help them define what the right thing is.