This post originally appeared on my company blog, where I write more about social media in general. On this blog, I throw it in from time to time but focus more on online communities. I thought this would be of interest to my regular readers here as well.

I am fascinated by social media guidelines. The whole process of getting the stakeholders around the table to discuss strategies for creating a document that usually makes employees cringe or rejoice is a challenge I welcome. The conversations that ensue are thrilling, and the fears that are uncovered can be real and raw.

The social media purists might say that the fears are unjustified, and in some cases they may be. But I can’t tell my four-year-old that her fears of a monster coming out of her closet while she’s asleep are unjustified when they are real to her.

What I can do is discuss her fears, try to understand the root of those fears and work to understand her pain point so that I can make it better by talking her through it.

I spent some time reading through the BBC’s new social networking policy today and their fears are evident. But there’s nothing wrong with that. They’ve clearly identified those fears, thought through the process and put together a document that will guide employees on how they should conduct themselves across social networks.

I am sure there will be critical blog posts about this new policy. Remember the shredding ESPN received across the twitterverse and blogoshpere when it released its social media guidelines last year? They even issued a response to the criticism.

But back to the BBC….One thing I found very interesting is what they call their “Linking Strategy, which states that links should be editorially justifiable. I agree with that as a former news manager. They have their credibility to protect and what they’re saying is if they’re going to provide a link, it needs to make sense and add value to the content.

I also found another passage rather interesting. It characterizes on-air mentions of social networks. It seems that the BBC won’t go on and on about their Twitter accounts or their Facebook pages without good reason, like CNN does.

(This is not to bash CNN but there is a constant scroll of twitter handles on the bottom of the screen, and Rick Sanchez lives by Twitter on his news program.)

So they’ve put a lot of thought into what level of importance social media will play in their editorial content, and that should be applauded. I think that employers owe their employees guidance in this area.

Does your company have social media guidelines? And what do those guidelines say about the company?

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