Google+ The Marketing Survivalist: Twitter Guidelines - An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

Twitter Guidelines - An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

Despite what I said about not fearing the competition when developing a social media strategy, there are some companies who are concerned about how their employees will behave as tools like Twitter become mainstream. (I’ve met some of their employees and some of these companies are right to be concerned.)

As with teenagers, a little discussion of expectations up front can go a long way. Of course, there are no “one size fits all” rules. Each company has its own employee challenges and cultural norms. Each set of guidelines drawn up will be as unique as the people who wrote them.

But where to start? For a closer look at Twitter guidelines, here are a few posts to get your thoughts rolling on how you want to set expectations with your own employees:

Guidelines for Brands Using Twitter - A few good examples of social media experiments that went well. Plus, the best advice for all of us – listen before talking.

AP Issues Strict Facebook, Twitter Guidelines to Staff
A bit from the darker side of employee guidelines. AP is instructing their employees to avoid all mention of political affiliation from their profiles… Unless you have a strong need to appear unbiased (and maybe the AP does) I think it’s a little overboard to require this of your employees.

British Government Publishes Twitter Guidelines
I think my examples just went from strict to absurd. A quote from the story,
“Now, other government departments will join these offices in producing between two and 10 tweets per day, which will be approved before they are posted, according to the guidelines. In addition to waiting at least 30 minutes between each Twitter update, civil servants are also advised not to follow anyone who isn’t following them.”

Did I mention that Twitter Guidelines may be different because of cultural differences? Hmm, perhaps a bit too regimented for my tastes.

Use common sense when creating your own guidelines
If none of these posts spur ideas for your own set of guidelines use a bit of common sense and develop your own. First, consider what kinds of mistakes can happen online and create guidelines that attempt to prevent these from happening. Often, these mistakes are made unintentionally by employees and with a little education ahead of time, could be avoided. Here are a few examples:

Leaking confidential information – Make sure all employees understand what information is confidential and what is not. This is especially important if you are in a company that tends to share confidential information further down the chain. Everything from financial info to product plans should be considered. Not all employees have a good handle on what they can share and what they can’t. Sometimes confidential information is leaked when the employee was only trying to be helpful.

Who’s asking? – While you can’t control who sees their tweets, sometimes your employees will have specific individuals reaching out to them. Make sure your employees use caution when commenting one on one with people they meet on the web. Long before the age of social media, reporters have been getting scoops from na├»ve and unsuspecting employees. Make sure all employees know where to route these types of people if they are asked for comments.

Venting inappropriately – Consider making it a rule that your employees never, ever make a disparaging comment publicly about a customer, vendor or business partner. These kinds of comments reflect even more negatively on your organization than if the employee were to make the comment about you. These are also the comments that leave you most open to legal action.

Inappropriate content – What’s inappropriate for some may not be inappropriate for others. While I don’t believe in policing your employee’s personal sites like the AP seems to, you have every right to require that they steer clear of certain content when they are using social media professionally. And there is a fine line between personal and professional these days. For example, even if your employees Tweet under their own name, that’s a professional account if they use it to Tweet about your company or industry. Twitter doesn’t limit the number of accounts you can have so consider encouraging your employees to separate the personal from the professional.

If you have additional idea for gudelines or stories about what has worked for you, please share them. You can comment on this blog or send me a tweet @melissapaulik.

All the best!

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