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This post originally appeared on on 5/11/2009. It is included here as a point of reference in time, when Social Media was relatively new to business and companies were just starting to figure out how their employees could or could not use it.
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A few weeks ago, I offered to help our Human Resources department create a “Social Media Policy” for my company. While my company didn’t want to impose draconian restrictions on Social Media, HR felt that some rules did have to be created for the good of both the employer and employee.


Our head of HR and I spent some time reviewing some other policies as well as discussing the types of things that we wanted to include and how we wanted to present it. We decided that it was important to have guidelines that were clear, yet we didn’t want them to simply say what employees couldn’t do. With a variety of examples in mind, I set out to write something that would be helpful, informative, and clear, yet different and educational in some way.

Shown below is the final version of the policy I came up with (with approval from HR). Note, the numbers in brackets are the actual character count as I’m considering publishing this on Twitter.

In the spirit of Social Media, specifically Twitter, each sentence or paragraph of these guidelines will be 140 characters or less.
When you use social media your actions, writing and content are not only a reflection of you but also the company you work for. [128]
There is only one Social Media guideline –> Use common sense![63]
Seriously though, there is obviously some “fine print” involved with any guidelines or “rules of conduct.” Social Media is no different. [137]
First, let’s understand what is considered “Social Media.” It’s Blogs, Forums, Wikis and Social Networks and commenting therein. [129]

7 Social Media Do’s
– Be Polite, Be Courteous, Be Helpful, Be Conversational, Be Intelligent, Be Non-confrontational, Be Transparent [133]
7 Social Media Don’ts – Share Secrets, Curse, Bad Mouth, Complain about Company/Product, Act Stupid, Defame, Forget Day Job [123]

The Social Media Don’ts Explained

  • Be Polite – Talk the way you would if you were doing a job interview. [72]
  • Be Courteous – Be sure to listen & ask questions. [52]
  • Be Helpful – Offering tips, tricks & how-to’s goes a long way. [65]
  • Be Conversational – Don’t just be a PR twit. Chat as you would with a stranger at a bar. Be funny yet interesting. [117]
  • Be Intelligent – Provide some value. Don’t talk down. Offer insight. [71]
  • Be Non-confrontational – Don’t start a flame war, it can & will come back to haunt you. [90]
  • Be Transparent – Disclose that you work for the company, be honest & truthful. [81]

The Social Media Don’ts Explained[33]

  • Don’t Share Secrets – Remember, you are under an NDA. If you aren’t sure you can disclose something, just don’t do it. [121]
  • Don’t Curse – If we find anyone cursing on Social Media sites, we will beat your *&%#^ butt! [95]
  • Don’t Bad Mouth – Keep that mouth clean & avoid slamming people or companies. It helps you avoid a lawsuit or people hating you. [131]
  • Don’t Complain About Company/Product – Remember what your mom said: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all! [137]
  • Don’t Act Stupid – Stupid is as stupid does. Think if your parents would be proud of your actions. [101]
  • Don’t Defame – Sometimes your competition can be your ally. Respect them professionally. [91]
  • Don’t Forget day job – Social Media can consume you so don’t forget who pays your salary. If it don’t help the company, be smart! [133]

Most companies already have a Code of Conduct. Social Media should simply be considered another communication channel. [118]

If you don’t know how you should act or communicate within Social Media, ask someone who does. Don’t just do it blindly! [120]

Lastly, remember that people are listening. What you do on Social Media defines your personal brand! [100]


Having a Social Media Policy or at least some guidelines is an important thing for companies to do given the proliferation of Social Media in and outside the workplace. If people don’t know what their limits are, don’t understand this new communication medium or just are very “communicative” in general, policies like these can go a long way to helping both your company and you navigate these dynamic waters. Other, more stricter policies are being formed, and the groundwork set for a more litigious environment. As social media continues to go mainstream, individuals and companies may be soon faced with lawsuits or discipline that could have been easily prevented through education and definition of Social Media.

HTD Says: Don’t get caught up in the rules, just know what your limits are and use Social Media to communicate to your heart’s content!

This post originally appeared on on 5/11/2009.