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If you’re like the rest of the world, by this point you’ve probably been caught up in the whirlwind world of social media. For a company the benefits are endless, but in the words of the bygone Kennedy administration, it’s a new frontier- one which may seem overwhelming and complex yet is truly a flexible and creative tool to expand and grow any company.

As we accept the inevitable and dip our company toes into the pool of social media, the endless possibilities become immediately clear. The ease with which a line of communication can be set up with clients and customers, the ever growing and diversifying outlets for promotion, and the immediate access to direct feedback are some of the many wonders that social media brings to any industry.

Yet originally blinded by the gilt of the thousands of possibilities, companies are slowly coming to see the need for structure and regulation within a largely new and unknown medium.

Enter the advent of social media policies. The must do, always be aware, create it at the beginning rules and regulations that will help determine your company’s and your employee’s involvement in social media inside and outside of the workplace.

Social media can be a valuable tool, but companies have come to realize the need for balance in addition to some small restrictions that will protect their interests. Megaliths like IBM and Coca-Cola have detailed outlines, or guidelines, of their social media policy dictating primarily the role employees can take on behalf of the company. Coca-Cola has developed five core values for the company presence in social media: transparency, protection, respect, responsibility, and utilization; while IBM focuses on points of interest for them.

In the hopes of keeping it simple– they are trying to guarantee that employees keep it legal, don’t badmouth the company, respect freedom of speech, and all the while use social media as a way to generate ideas, communication, and profit. IBM wants to make sure its clients are always protected while Coca-Cola emphasizes the importance of maintaining brand integrity; yet these industry leaders are forging the way for others. If you really want to make your workers experts on your social media policy, give them a class. gives new employees a training seminar on how to use twitter effectively.

The growing problem of note is the lack of consistency throughout industries and business markets. While using social media outlets properly on a personal level is really mostly about common sense, the legal reality is that workers have no right to privacy within the workplace. When the use of social media brings the workplace to any place that an employee may be, the line becomes blurry. Some commentators say that social media policy is just an extension of communication policies already in place. While it is true that the basic tenants are the same, it is a whole different beast companies are dealing with now.

A beginning is always difficult, but proponents say the best place to start is by considering and learning how employees are “aligned with your companies values.” Social media policy isn’t about creating a police state, it’s about making sure that everyone in the company is on the same page. After doing that, check out Kodak’s Social Media Tips. It is a useful tool for starting to think about social media policy. Ironing out the realities of how your company and employees are interacting with social media may be difficult, but social media policy is a necessity for the business world. Whether you like it or not “people are talking about your brand, products, and industry…That train has left the station.” So all aboard everybody.

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