Drafting Social Media Guidelines

We’re busy writing our next white paper about social media policies, and I’m thinking about this issue also in relationship to building our team of interns, so I drafted a quick set of Social Media Guidelines for future SocialFish employees.  These borrow liberally from Intel and Sun Microsystems‘ guidelines which, though corporate, are some of the best we’ve seen and I am sure they won’t mind us repurposing them.

I would love to hear your comments about these draft guidelines below.  The way this is worded reflects our own brand personality, of course, but the content should be appropriate for any organization. The main concern for me was that this should fit on one page (e.g. for posting on a bulletin board, if we had one, in an office, if we had one…) and be easy to learn and follow.  There’s no point in having guidelines so complicated that no-one will ever look at them.  Who ever reads those massive employee handbooks?  Even when you have to sign the piece of paper that says you did?  Social media guidelines, though, are about how you operate, work, converse on a daily basis.  They need to be simple, clear, and common sense. Clarity over control.

Let me know your thoughts on this!


SocialFish Social Media Guidelines

These are the official guidelines for social media use on behalf of SocialFish. If you’re a SocialFish employee or contractor creating or contributing to any kind of social media both on and off socialfish.org, these guidelines are for you. We expect all who participate in social media on behalf of SocialFish to understand and follow these guidelines.

  • Live the SocialFish philosophy. In online social networks, the lines between public and private, personal and professional are blurred. Just by identifying yourself as a SocialFish employee, you are creating perceptions about your expertise.  Be sure that all content associated with you is consistent with your work and SocialFish’s philosophy (that social media is about building relationships – not a numbers game).
  • Understand privacy settings on outposts. We don’t expect all of your social media use to be work-related, but we do expect you to keep the items you share with your close personal friends separate from what you share with your work “friends.”
  • Be yourself. Never impersonate someone else, or purposely obscure your identity as a SocialFish. Build your own reputation. Care about what you are talking about.  Add value to the conversation.
  • State when it’s your personal opinion versus the SocialFish opinion. For your personal blog, twitter account, or lifestream, we have a handy disclaimer that you can use.
  • Write what you know. Stick to your area of expertise and provide unique, individual perspectives on what’s going on at SocialFish and in the world.
  • Don’t tell secrets. Respect proprietary information and content, and confidentiality.  Don’t discuss client work without permission.
  • Don’t spam. Ever. You can link to other SocialFish blog posts or information about services but do it subtly and only in response to a specific query.  We have other ways of sharing our awesomesauce.
  • Give credit where credit is due. Always attribute when quoting someone else. Make sure images are shareable through Creative Commons, and attribute them, too. Never use copyrighted material without permission.
  • Mistakes happen. Let the team help you fix your mistakes. Most of the time, admitting your mistake and moving on is enough. When it isn’t, the team can come  together to find a solution to any problem.
  • Share the love. We believe in sharing and linking to the best content from all over the web. A link is not an endorsement, so don’t be shy about sharing something from a “competitor” if you feel it is worthwhile to our clients and friends.
  • Be a good conversationalist. Monitor and reply to comments in a timely manner, when a response is appropriate; but pause and wait if you are having an emotional response to something – or show someone else first before you hit the publish button.
  • Be clear, but not defensive. Be polite and professional, especially when you disagree with someone.  If you find yourself working too hard to defend, take a step back, let the community defend for you (because they will).
  • Remember everything online is discoverable. If you can’t show it to your mother or a judge, don’t post it. If in doubt, ask.
  • Always be learning. This space is fast-moving and ever-evolving. Read more than you write. Ask questions. Link to others and always build relationships. That’s what our work is all about.


What do you think? Have I forgotten anything major? Let me know in the comments.

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maddiegrant October 14, 2009 at 12:07 pm

Drafting Social Media Guidelines http://ff.im/-9NBOg

NonprofitSRQ October 14, 2009 at 12:09 pm

RT@maddiegrant Drafting Social Media Guidelines http://ff.im/-9NBOg great ones!

SteveDrake October 14, 2009 at 12:12 pm

RT @maddiegrant: Drafting Social Media Guidelines http://ff.im/-9NBOg Good stuff. Thanks!

nonprofitadvice October 14, 2009 at 12:23 pm

RT @maddiegrant: Drafting Social Media Guidelines http://ff.im/-9NBOg -these are great

deirdrereid October 14, 2009 at 12:28 pm

These are fantastic – one page! RT @maddiegrant: Drafting Social Media Guidelines http://ff.im/-9NBOg

curtmoss October 14, 2009 at 12:38 pm

RT @DeirdreReid: These are fantastic – one page! RT @maddiegrant: Drafting Social Media Guidelines http://ff.im/-9NBOg

DanScheeler October 14, 2009 at 1:24 pm

More SocMed goodness from the SocialFish: RT @maddiegrant: Drafting Social Media Guidelines http://ff.im/-9NBOg

maddiegrant October 14, 2009 at 1:31 pm

RT @DanScheeler More SocMed goodness from the SocialFish: RT @maddiegrant: Drafting Social Media Guidelines http://ff.im/-9NBOg [thx!!]

SocialFishFood October 14, 2009 at 12:33 pm

Drafting Social Media Guidelines http://bit.ly/3DWvry

LibbyGi October 14, 2009 at 12:46 pm

RT @curtmoss: RT @DeirdreReid: These are fantastic – one page! Drafting Social Media Guidelines http://ff.im/-9NBOg via @maddiegrant

DannyCaulfield October 14, 2009 at 2:10 pm

Worth the read..RT @tweetmeme Drafting Social Media Guidelines — SocialFish http://bit.ly/2Z9Ni9

maddiegrant October 14, 2009 at 3:24 pm

So whaddaya think of our social media guidelines? http://bit.ly/vEJJz #socialfish

shanameydala October 14, 2009 at 3:33 pm

RT @ Drafting Social Media Guidelines — SocialFish http://bit.ly/2Z9Ni9. Me: I love these & I want to work for any company that adopts them.

Jamie Notter October 15, 2009 at 10:22 am

These guidelines do what most strategic plans don’t do: they take ideas that are complex and strategically very important, and translate them into a short set of memorable concepts that really help people when faced with key choices in their daily lives.


You guys make it look easy!

FundraisingTwip October 17, 2009 at 8:29 pm

Drafting Social Media Guidelines — SocialFish http://ow.ly/uZZZ Clarity over control! I like that!

mediahookup October 19, 2009 at 3:34 pm

Drafting Social Media Guidelines <via SocialFish.org> http://cli.gs/nX6Ezd #socialmedia

karenaltes October 27, 2009 at 4:52 pm

Love this. From SocialFish: Social Media Guidelines http://bit.ly/2AfjiM Fit on one page, easy to understand and follow.

Karla Pollack November 1, 2009 at 6:51 pm

RT @SocialFishFood Drafting Social Media Guidelines — SocialFish http://bit.ly/2Z9Ni9

onnetworking December 25, 2009 at 9:42 pm

OnlineNetworking.biz: Drafting Social Media Guidelines — SocialFish: social media guidelines http://url4.eu/yzwZ

Janine May 25, 2010 at 12:33 pm

Maddie, Thank you for the great advice. One question though, I agree that transparency is very important, and it is necessary to be authentic and stick to what you know and who you are. However, to protect one’s personal safety if one is writing for an organization that may get complaints or threats, what is wrong with maintaining a ‘screen name’ to preserve some anonymity. The voice is you, the message is from you, but personally identifiable info (address, phone number, etc.) is kept private. I’d be interested in your thoughts. Thank you, Janine

Maddie Grant May 25, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Thanks for the comment Janine! Definitely, I agree there are situations where keeping that kind of personal information private is paramount. We’ve talked to some nonprofits, for example, who help battered women get away from abusive relationships -and I’m sure we can all think of other examples. Safety first, of course, but even in these cases it’s possible to “be real” in terms of conversations and responses on behalf of an organization. And honestly, if there’s a serious risk to individuals, then maybe it’s less important to be transparent and more important to provide resources and factual information.

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