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Social Media Guidelines, In Writing

I’ve been sitting on this one for about a week, trying to decide how I feel about it. As I found out from a Brent Leary tweet (retweeting @Agotthelf, who was in turn RTing @markjreuter), Intel published its social media guidelines for employees and contractors. This is a good start–Intel may be one of the first names in technology, but it also feels to most people like a faceless megacorp, no matter how many blogs it has or contributes to. Anything that helps to soften that image (like their recent TV commercials with the a cappella jingle) is a step in the right direction.

The Intel guidelines are broken into three sections. The first and third are nothing special; one is a reminder to think before you post, be helpful, and don’t be a jerk, while three is all about guidelines for moderating content in social forums. Both are good to have and necessary to the discussion—it’s posted in the Legal Information section, after all. But section two, “Rules of Engagement,” is the standout part of the document.

The first bullet sets the tone.Be transparent. Your honesty—or dishonesty—will be quickly noticed in the social media environment. If you are blogging about your work at Intel, use your real name, identify that you work for Intel, and be clear about your role. If you have a vested interest in something you are discussing, be the first to point it out.” It’s advice that I (and my colleagues) can’t stress enough, but is often ignored by corporate entities to their detriment. Social CRM touches some of the roles of public relations and marketing, but it is neither, and thus requires a different voice and a more open attitude.

Other entries (“Perception is reality,” “It’s a conversation,” and “Are you adding value?”) are similarly important bits of advice for anybody who blogs on behalf of a business. It’s too easy to forget that you’re not writing to a forum, or a group, or a hashtag—you’re writing to the people who go there because they want something they can’t get from the newspaper or the TV. Each person wants to feel like they’re involved on some level, and each has different opinions and hot buttons.

Of course, Intel is a huge company that must cover its own arse, as well as those of its employees. Thus, the following: Your Responsibility: What you write is ultimately your responsibility. Participation in social computing on behalf of Intel is not a right but an opportunity, so please treat it seriously and with respect. If you want to participate on behalf of Intel, take the Digital IQ training and contact the Social Media Center of Excellence. Please know and follow the Intel Code of Conduct. Failure to abide by these guidelines and the Intel Code of Conduct could put your participation at risk. Contact social.media@intel.com for more information. Please also follow the terms and conditions for any third-party sites.” Yeah, it may seem strange or artificial that they have a training program and Center of Excellence (whatever that is), but it shows they’re trying to get it right.

But just as important as that is this: Did you screw up? If you make a mistake, admit it. Be upfront and be quick with your correction. If you’re posting to a blog, you may choose to modify an earlier post—just make it clear that you have done so.” Advice like this doesn’t seem to surface often enough. It should be posted on every wall of every room of every building everywhere. The most honest thing you can say is “I screwed up,” and it’s a sign of maturity to try to fix it without being forced to.

As I said when I started this post, I have been letting the topic marinate for a week, so I’ve probably missed some good discussion. Links to other coverage are appreciated, and if you have any other examples of good attempts at corporate social media policy, I’d love to see ’em.