Rules of the road.


Following a set of simple s rules can keep most small-and mid-sized businesses out of trouble. That's the view of author and marketing expert Deb McAlister, who describes her guidebook as a best practice primer for individual and business social media users.


A corporate social media policy that emphasizes the following 10 points, McAlister says, can often fit on a single page and offer workers the flexibility needed to become empowered "brand ambassadors," without getting themselves or the company into trouble. Her Top Ten tips for devising a workable social media policy and guide are:

Be yourself. If you're writing about the company, its products or its competitors, use your real name, and identify that you work for the company. If you have a vested interest in what you're writing about--as a shareholder, paid consultant, employee, board member or the spouse or family member of one of the above--be the first to say so clearly and directly.

Be truthful. Never represent yourself or the company in a false or misleading way. Make certain that every statement is true and not misleading. Substantiate all claims.

Be relevant. Post meaningful, respectful comments: no spam, no remarks that are off topic or offensive.

Be smart. Use common sense and courtesy in all postings. Stick to what you know, don't comment if you aren't sure your information is correct.

Be discreet. Don't violate the company's privacy, confidentiality and legal guidelines for external commercial speech. Don't publish or report on conversations that should remain private and internal to the company.

Be polite. When disagreeing with someone's opinion, keep it polite. If an online situation becomes antagonistic, don't get defensive...

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