Zen and the Art of Social Media Guideline Maintenance

If you’re reading this, then the chances are you thinking about the need for or even writing social media guidelines. Perhaps you are looking for examples to draft your own policy? Before you do that, just pause for a moment and consider ‘how’ you will create your guidelines,rather than ‘what’ they will be.

For example, there are plenty of examples of organisations – both public and private – around the world that have developed social media guidelines (or policy if you prefer) of one form and another:

With all those examples isn’t it easy, right? Just copy and paste to create the perfect guidelines for your organisation?

Headshift’s own Robin Hamman previously worked at the BBC in the UK where there was an initiative to get the actual people the guidelines were aimed at involved in writing them.

Talking with Robin about his experience at the BBC, he commented tome that not a single person broke those guidelines in the time he was there. I thing that is a testament to the critical success factor for social media guidelines that people who they affect are involved in drafting and agreeing to them.

This actually makes a lot of sense to me because when it comes providing guidance on how people use any kind of technology in the workplace that is voluntary in some aspect, then an element of discretion enters the equation that can not be codified into black and white rules.

For example, you can define the rules in an organisation for submitting an expense claim. Employees have a simple choice: Follow the rules or wear the expense yourself.

But this doesn’t work with the broad spectrum of social media tools and social networks. While you could try banning social media entirely,you can’t force people to blog, represent you on Facebook or twitter about your organisation on your terms unless they volunteer to do it.

Speaking about the benefits of enabling staff to participate outside the firewall, Robin told me:

I met more of my colleagues through flickr, twitter and blogging than I ever would have met on the corporate intranet or through usual work based contact. In fact, by sharing my ideas out in the open, I was able to benefit – the BBC was able to benefit – from a discussion involving people with a much wider range of experience than within the corporation itself.

BTW Worth checking out is this video on Robin’s blog of a guy working for Sun discussing why corporations should allow or even nurture their employees external blogging activities – it highlights the importance of top-down support.

Based on my own experience with information management and knowledge sharing policies in the past, the other part of this story is sustaining awareness and relevance of the policy. During my own time at Ernst & Young, knowledge management was taken seriously enough to be part of the formal staff induction – we ran a mini-workshop to explain what it was and why it was important. Staff signed up to Ernst& Young’s knowledge sharing agreement as part of their employment contract, but we still had to make it relevant.

Putting the policy together is easy. But remember, the journey is as important as the destination.

If you would like to talk more about social media guidelines, just give me or Anne a call.