One Ring to Rule Them All

Do a quick search for social media policies and guidelines.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Quickly, open and view five of those documents. Quite similar to each other, right? Copy and paste. Copy and paste. For all the talk about crafting a social media policy or set of guidelines. many of these documents were created based on the publicly available documents of other companies, rather than the needs and culture of their own organization.

You don’t need to search very far for inspiration and guidance for your own policy or guidelines. All you need to do is locate your organization’s Code of Conduct. What is the tone of voice? What mission and values are integrated in the document? Use the Code of Conduct as your guide to determine if a social media policy (or guidelines) is needed or warranted.


Many ethics codes include aspirational and rules / principles section. Why was the Code of Conduct created? To inspire? Regulate behavior? Both? Do a bit of homework and determine how the code was devised and the individuals or working group responsible for the creation. Read between the lines and search for clues to the order of information and principles presented. How often is the code reviewed and updated? Once a year is once too late and leads to check-the-box thinking.


How is the code socialized within (and, perhaps, external) the organization? How was the code implemented? Is it integrated into organizational policies and practices? Simply creating a code or additional social media policy does not mean people will automatically adhere to those principles. Give them a reason. How is the code currently enforced? Is it enforced through encouraging behavior and demonstration by example? Just stating that one must act “professional” does not demonstrate the action. My version of professional may be different than yours. There may not be a need for a social media policy, but a set of guidelines modeling the expected behavior and reinforcing behavior continuously through continuous learning.

But we must remember that good laws, if they are not obeyed, do not constitute good government. Hence there are two parts of good government; one is the actual obedience of citizens to the laws, the other part is the goodness of the laws which they obey…” (Aristotle, Politics) 


Who is affected by the code and what is the best way to share information with them? Sometimes organizations get so lost in the shiny new tools or design, they disregard the lowest common denominator solution. Determine the format based on the applicability and access to all levels of the organization.

I am asking you to ask a lot of questions. That is because there is no cookie cutter approach to policy. Your Code of Ethics and additional policy and guidelines are specific to the needs, challenges, desires and values of your organization. Often, an understood and updated Code of Conduct supplemented with social media / community guidelines are what is needed and not necessarily the creation of a policy. Only your organization can make that determination by acting the part of the detective and seeking the precious truth and reasoning. Why reinvent the wheel?

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  • Paul Simon

    Well stated. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all.