Developing your personal social media policy

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Developing your personal social media policy

For a couple of decades now most of us have been surfing around the net in its various forms and planting flags at every site we came to rest at. Hell, I remember annoying my parents to no end when I took the phone off the hook, dialed my local computer shop and snapped the headset into the modem cradle. CompuServe, AppleLink, eWorld, AOL, Yahoo!, MSN, EarthLink, MindSpring, and Usenet were the first outposts of a novel linking of nerdkind that let us play and chat and share. With the advent of GUIs that the masses loved latecomers like MySpace, FaceBook, Friendster, Classmates, Google Plus and of course YouTube allowed grandmothers and seven-year-olds alike get their fair share of content out to the word. Specialty sites such as Ancestry, Wikipedia, Blogger, Ning, EOL, LinkedIn,,, and the like can allow for dozens if not hundreds of public profiles for all the world to peruse.

Are you an artist? Add another dozen sites. Parent? Add another 15. Pet owner? Add another dozen. Don’t forget eBay, CraigsList, About…it goes on and on…so many I almost forgot Twitter.

You get my point.

“How many flags do you think you have planted?”

This is a question I ask students who are looking to enter the workforce. What do people see when they Google your name/check you out on Facebook/LinkedIn/the local arrest records? What “face” to you present to the world? Do you have split personalities? Are you very professional on LinkedIn, more personable on Facebook and an obnoxious tool on Twitter? Well, prospective employers will get a glimpse of the many “yous” and it will help them determine if you end up on the interview pile or in the trash can. Replace ‘prospective employer’ with ‘graduate school admissions officer’, ‘vendor relations vice president’, ‘future father-in-law’, ‘old flame looking to rekindle’ and you can see the potential for missed connections.

So how do you go about wrapping your brain around this whole thing?

The one thing about the internet you need to remember is that it never forgets. Maybe you had a bad day in 1994 and you were surly to the lady at the deli, your co-workers, the mailman, your family. You vented at some of them, cursed a few, stomped about and beat your chest. Most likely no one will remember the specifics or the facts of that day. But if you hit a comment board that day and ranted about how so and so was $@%(&@^!…well chances are that’s still there. We’re you into your punk days when you abandoned you MySpace profile? Well, chances are it’s still there. It goes on and on and on.

“So what do I do now?!”

If you’re ready to clean up your online persona you need to do a few things before you get down to work.

1. Think about your life goals and what kind of person you want to be, what life paths you see yourself going down and how will you need to present yourself to that segment of society. What you’re doing here is taking the first steps in developing your own personal brand.

2. Understand that when you participate in developing profiles and pushing content out to the universe that you are engaging in marketing. You’re marketing yourself as well as whatever it is that your content is marketing.

3. Understand that you must align your online activities with your personal goals. You need to ask yourself “Will posting this content or designing a page or making a comment help me meet my goals?” If the answer is “no” then don’t do it.

4. Time is money. Make sure your activities bring you a return on investment! I agree with the adage of “The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time” but there is a point where, if you find yourself feeling like you need to keep abreast of hundreds of people and comment, like and interact with those folks who won’t help you reach your goals then you need to cease this activity.

If you agree with this mindset and you have given these action items some thought you need to go ahead and start phase two:

Identifying and uncovering the multi-headed monster that is your online persona.

1. Sit down with a blank sheet of paper and write down all of the online haunts you regularly, er…ummm, haunt.
2. Now think of the ones you use to be active in. Did you delete those accounts and profiles? Are they still out there?
3. Google yourself…write down those sites you find.
4. Bing yourself…write down those sites you find.
5. Check your bookmarks…add those sites.
6. Take a break, get a café au lait and a nice brioche.
7. Hit the Wiki for lists of websites, blogs, social networks, message boards, etc.
8. Come back and finalize you list.

After you have an idea of where you are take an inventory of how you presented yourself in all of these places. Do they align with your personal brand? Yes? Then guess what…keep doing what you’re doing!

No? Then we turn to damage control.

What is included in the damage control phase?

If you found some ghosts of your past that just don’t align with what you want your personal brand to be then the swiftest way to mitigate a miscommunicated message is to get rid of it. How do you do that?

1. If you can, log into those sites that contain those messages that you want to delete then go in and do that. If it’s an abandoned account, say MySpace, for example, then go ahead and delete your content and delete your profile and close the account.

2. If you cannot log in, for example you cannot remember the password and the email address you once used to set up the account is no longer available to you then you’ll have to go ahead and write to the service provider and begin a process to have those comments/profiles/accounts removed.

3. If there are sites that you can change privacy settings from public to private then go ahead and do that.

4. Finally, there will be some sites that you will have to accept the fact that you cannot delete nor can you change or hide in some sort of way from the public. You will need to take this into account when developing your new online persona. For example if your trolling tag was once LoudandMean69 you can probably let that go without much worry. You will more easily disassociate yourself from this semi-anonymous tag. However, if you trolled along with your own name and supplemented this items with pictures you will need to find a way to develop your new brand in such a way that leaves doubt in the researcher’s mind that those troll items may not be you. For example, if you trolled along as “Billy Bob Thorton” then you may want to consider your personal brand to be “William R. Thorton”.

A fresh start

When you clean up your online persona and you have developed a new brand you will want to go ahead and incorporate that brand into all of the existing online spaces that align with your freshly identified goals.

Make sure you brand is striking and memorable. Incorporate your personal brand across not only online spaces but your correspondence stationary, business cards and online emails. Make sure when a potential employer, customer, compatriot encounters your personal brand, whether it be online, in the mail or in person that they have the same branding experience. Not only will doing this help eliminate any embarrassing disassociations but will make you stand out from the crowd!

Keeping it clean

Now that you have invested the time to secure, build and launch your brand you need to make sure you protect it. How do you do this?

Develop a personal social media policy!

You need to think about what you’ve got here and how to protect it. You need to understand your habits and control them so that you align with your personal mission and brand. Do you tend to drunk post? Then a rule of thumb should be to not post while out imbibing. Do you have the right equipment to ensure quality posts? Do you have a zest for attention to detail?

Many questions you will need to answer in order to develop your personal policy.

But you need to write them down.

Here are some good examples of how to go about organizing them:

Today, social media encompasses a broad sweep of online activity, all of which is track-able and traceable. These networks include not only the blogs you write and those to which you comment, but social networks such as Facebook and MySpace; professional networks such as LinkedIn; the live-blogging tool, Twitter; and social bookmarking such as Digg and Delicious. Every day, it seems, new online tools and new advances introduce new opportunities to build your virtual footprint.

I believe that social media can drive my missions.

Keeping that in mind, I attempt here to provide reasonable guidelines for my online behavior on behalf of myself and my family. As new tools on the Web are introduced, and new challenges emerge, this document will, of necessity, evolve.

Below represents my new Social Media Policy and social networking.

Social Media Policies and Procedures and Social Networking Policies and Procedures: MY IDENTITY ONLINE

• I am responsible for what I post. I am personally responsible for any of my online activity
conducted with a personal email address, and/or which can be traced back to my domain, and/or which uses my personal assets. My address attached to my name implies that I am acting on my own behalf. When using my email address to engage in any social media or professional social networking activity (for example LinkedIn) all actions are public, and I
will be held fully responsible for any and all said activities.

• My rights to privacy and free speech protect online activity conducted on my personal social networks with my personal email address. However, what I publish on such personal online sites should never be attributed to anyone else and should not appear to be endorsed by or originated from others if not. If I choose to list my opinions on a social network, then I will regard all communication on that network as I would in a professional network. Online lives are ultimately linked, whether or not I choose to mention other professional relationships in my personal online networking activity.

• I will be transparent. When participating in any online community, I will disclose my identity and affiliation with my family, and my professional and/or personal interests. When posting to a blog, I will always use my name. I will never create an alias, and never be anonymous.

• I will follow the terms and conditions of use that have been established by each venue used for social networking activities.

• I will obey the law. I won’t post any information or conduct any online activity that may violate applicable local, state or federal laws or regulations.

• I will never be false and misleading in my online credentials. I MUST maintain complete accuracy in all of my online bios and ensure there is no embellishment.

• I will use the words “expert” or “certified” very sparingly and only when such claims can be substantiated and are approved for usage by the appropriate governing body.

Social Media Policies and Procedures and Social Networking Policies and Procedures: CREATING AND MANAGING CONTENT

• I will be direct, informative and brief.

• I will never use another person’s name in a blog posting, unless I have written permission to do so.

• I will credit appropriately. I will identify all copyrighted or borrowed material with citations and links. When publishing any material online that includes another’s direct or paraphrased quotes, thoughts, ideas, photos, or videos, I will always give credit to the original material or author, where applicable.

• I will fact-check my posts. I will always evaluate my contribution’s accuracy and truthfulness. Before posting any online material, I will ensure that the material is accurate, truthful, and without factual error.

• I will spell and grammar check everything. Content never disappears entirely once it’s been posted.

• I will correct errors promptly. If I find that my blog entry contains an error or mistake, I will correct it. Since transparency is key, I will admit my mistake, apologize if necessary, correct it and move on.

• While a blog itself is not subject to the limitation on commercial speech, the content of a blog can be. The content must be informative only, and nothing in the content should propose a commercial transaction or be for the purpose of directly gaining a commercial transaction.

Social Media Policies and Procedures and Social Networking Policies and Procedures: LEAVING COMMENTS

• When posting to a blog, I will refrain from posting about controversial or potentially inflammatory subjects, including politics, sex, or any private subjects. I will keep the tone of my comments respectful and informative, never condescending or “loud”. I will use sentence case format, not capital letters. I will stick to this maxim whenever I am contributing to any blogs or social and professional networks.

• I will avoid personal attacks, online fights, and hostile communications. If a blogger or any other online influencer posts a statement with which I disagree, I might voice my opinion, but will not escalate the conversation to a heated argument. I will write reasonably, factually, and with good humor. I will understand and credit the other person’s point of view and avoid any communications that could result in personal, professional, or credibility attacks.

• I will never disclose proprietary or confidential information.

• When appropriate and possible, I will provide a link to my LinkedIn Profile, or to supporting documents. This will help raise my Google results.

• If in doubt, don’t!


• I won’t disclose confidential information. Honor the terms of your contracts with others. Do not disclose or use confidential or proprietary information in any form of online media.
Sharing this type of information, even unintentionally, can result in legal action against me.

• I will avoid forums where there is little control over what I know to be confidential information.

• I will respect the privacy of others and of the opinions of others. Before sharing a comment, post, picture, or video about a person through any type of social media or network, his/her consent is not only a courtesy, it is a requirement.

Social Media Policies and Procedures and Social Networking Policies and Procedures: POTENTIAL CONFLICTS AND RED FLAGS

I will get approval for a post when:

• Responding to a negative post. If a blogger or any other online participant posts an inaccurate, accusatory or negative comment about the team or any of the team’s stakeholders, I will not engage in the conversation.

• If I am contacted directly by a journalist regarding issues of concern to others I will clear the query with those involved before responding to any journalist.

Social Media Policies and Procedures and Social Networking Policies and Procedures: BUILDING MY VIRTUAL FOOTPRINT AND MY NETWORK

• I will build a reputation of trust. When I am reaching out to journalists, bloggers, clients, or colleagues through social media, I will take every opportunity to build a reputation of trust and establish myself as a credible person.

• I won’t use my own personal online relationships to influence polls, rankings, or web traffic.

• When using social networks with my e-mail and professional identification, I will not “friend” anyone whom I either do not actually know and/or with whom I have not previously corresponded.

Follow these rules for yourself and you’ll have a world class online presence you can be proud of, will help you meet your goals and will generate a positive return on investment.

If you have any questions about how to do any of these steps you can contact me at We can work together to get you where you need to be.

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