In 2013, Poppy Rose Cleere tweeted about a mass layoff at HMV as it was happening (Rowley, 2013). She felt the public needed to know about the sweeping redundancies given company’s policies demanding silence. But also, as she later tweeted in explanation, “I hoped that today's actions would finally show them the true power and importance of Social Media, and I hope they're finally listening” (Rowley, 2013). Among the barrage of tweets escaping HMV during the embarrassing episode is this one:
From HMV employees, the public heard that HMV was “ruined.” Clearly HMC social media policies had not been clearly articulated or consistently shared at HMV, and the consequences were dire. Because an effective social media policy makes the difference between success and calamity, it’s essential to codify the guidelines for how I and my organization will engage the platforms hosting my professional presence. I will adhere to these policies to the best of my ability in order to build and maintain the professional presence of my brand.
In establishing my social media policies, I have referred largely to Jane Johnston’s identification of 13 thematic commonalities shared across 20 organizations (Johnston, 2014). After applying them to my analysis of the New York Times, the Washington Post, and NPR’s social media policies through a Grounded Theory Approach, I arrived at the following themes for my social media policy:
Values and Public Impact – My mission in publishing content is to connect and inspire - every time I put pen to paper I hope to make the world a little smaller while encouraging individuals to take responsibility for recreating the world more in accordance with their values. My guiding values are listed below, and they inform all of what I do:
Truth – There exists an objective truth and my duty as a journalist is to share it as faithfully as possible.
Respect – We are deserving of love, understanding, and equal consideration. We should lift people up, not tear them down.
Empowerment – Modern society demands participation from all of us to build a better future. But we cannot or will not take action unless we know the facts and know what to do about them.
When I arrive at a novel situation in the course of engaging social media and am unsure how to proceed ethically, I will return to these values asking “What do people deserve to know?,” “How do I speak of, for, and to the world with the compassion I desire for myself?,” and “What will better enable the public to change their world for the better?”
Serve Readers – The most successful media companies have the happiest audience. Therefore:
Endeavor to publish the best content possible.
Relentlessly find ways to improve upon, diversify, make accessible, or enhance the experience of your content.
Public Image – Audiences don’t hesitate to leave if they don’t trust, respect, and need you. Therefore:
Assume that everything you say and do directly impacts you brand because it does. At times, this fact will necessitate reporting, and at times require discretion.
Utilize every channel of media (Blog, Instagram, Facebook, etc.) considering their unique ecosystems, mores, and expectations, as well as how you aim to be perceived on them. Aim not only to be appropriate in every instance, but also a model contributor.
Transparency – Prove that you’ve got nothing to hide. Therefore:
Disclose all relevant relationships in the interest of transparency. If it affects your perspective or your content – declare it.
If you make an error in your reporting, acknowledge it as swiftly and as possible.
Veracity – What you sell is truth and you must market it well. Therefore:
Share the sources of your information. If you are sharing an opinion or speculation, disclose it openly.
Don’t mislead or misrepresent the truth. Ensuring for this requires abundant and regular fact-checking.
Facilitating Discourse – Through discussion we build communities and shift perspectives. Therefore:
Encourage thoughtful, meaningful, and productive discussion in all places.
Don’t participate in toxic, hurtful, or destructive dialogue except to respectfully discourage it.
Confidentiality – Develop a culture of trust and accountability. Therefore:
Protect the sensitive information of yourself and others.
Cite sources only as they agree to be cited.
Legal Guidelines – Follow the rules or face the consequences. Therefore:
Ask for permission to share others’ content and share content within the stated limits of the author.
Abide by all relevant legal requirements for content dissemination in your country and from applicable international standards.
Non-compliance – The audience is the boss. Therefore:
Readers are encouraged to call out any failure to meet these standards. We all make mistakes, but we build integrity by matching reality to our words.
It’s not up to you whether the public feels they can trust you. But it’s your job to convince them they can.
Jake Batsell describes this moment well: “This is what media is now, a constantly evolving interaction between reporters working for mainstream companies; journalists and writers compiling and interpreting news for online outlets; and thousands of individuals participating on their own in the gathering and assembling and disseminating of information” (Batsell, 2015, p. 58). In this space we must invent a new sort of relationship with our audience, and the stakes are high. Either we build and execute an effective social media strategy winning a healthy online presence, or we don’t and risk obsolescence. Here’s to the former.
Batsell, J. (2015). Engaged Journalism. New York City: Columbia University Press.
Best Buy. (2009, March 24). Best Buy® Social Media Policy. Retrieved from Bust Buy: https://forums.bestbuy.com/t5/Welcome-News/Best-Buy-Social-Media-Policy/td-p/20492
Johnston, J. (2014). ‘Loose tweets sink fleets’ and other sage. Journal of Public Affairs, Vol. 15, 175-187.
Jones, S. (2013, January 31). HMV workers take over official Twitter feed to vent fury over sacking. Retrieved from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/jan/31/hmv-workers-twitter-feed-sacking
Rowley, E. (2013, January 13). HMV staffer claims responsibility for tweeting mass sacking. Retrieved from The Telegraph: