Do you have a social-media policy? Do you need one?

Most execs have a love/hate relationship with social media, and nearly everyone is running blind, a new report suggests.

Execs love the potential of social media (81% say it can enhance relationships with customers and employees, for example). But they are afraid of it: 80% are concerned about the risks, 51% worry that it will erode productivity and 49% fear it could damage their reputation.

Love or hate it, social media has become an increasingly common way to communicate internally and externally.

Yet you’d be forgiven if your company is still coming to grips with whether to use it, ban it, limit it, encourage it, etc.

The U.S. Marines recently decided to block social networking sites by troops at work (or at war for that matter), citing security concerns. (No more Twittering enemy coordinates perhaps?)

It’s a similar story in corporate America where 40% of companies attempt to block their employees from using social media networks.

Despite fears about social media, only a third of companies have a social media policy in place. The rest? Many aren’t sure what to include in a policy.

A ban will only backfire, say experts

A corporate lock out like the Marines isn’t the answer, says Russell Herder’s report.

That’ll only drive employees to find a loophole in the ban or work their way around it – potentially making a company even more vulnerable,  says the report.

Here are the 10 best practices for developing a social media policy:

  1. Define your overall philosophy to social media. Is your company’s philosophy like BestBuy or Zappos to embrace social media?
  2. Emphasize honesty and respect. The best policies stress employees should be honest and transparent. For example, if a service rep promotes your products, he should admit that he works for your company.
  3. Reinforce the company’s confidentiality policies. Because disclosure is so easy on social media, remind employees of the risks.
  4. Differentiate between an employee’s personal online identity and professional. For example, an employee may have a personal blog but also Twitter about work on company time. Is it okay for an employee to use her work e-mail address to leave a comment on a blog unrelated to work?
  5. Focus on the use of social media as it relates to job performance instead of talking about company time. Why? Many employees may use social media to promote their company outside of the regular business hours.
  6. Avoid conflicts of interest. Give examples of what kind of conflicts may come about and how they should be addressed.
  7. Include a disclaimer.
  8. Discuss monitoring of these activities. Your company may decide to monitor social media usage and discipline those who abuse the policy.
  9. Apply policy uniformly. The best policies apply to everyone and not just the marketing department. However, this may not be realistic in every company.
  10. Integrate the policy with other corporate policies, like discrimination, ethics, code of conduct, etc.

Info: You can download the full report by Russell Herd and Ethos by clicking here.

Posted by Julie Power, editor in chief of the Internet Marketing Report and the blog,

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