Pam Sahota recently provided 14 examples of corporate social media policies at 14 different organizations. While no insurance companies were among the examples cited, it's still worth a look to see what some of the key common guidelines were for employee involvement on social networks in an official capacity as representatives of their organizations.

Some nuggets:

Intellectual property rights – employer takes all: Best Buy encourages employees to participate in its Twitter feeds, called Twelpforce, but advises participants to be careful in what they divulge in terms of sensitive information. Intellectual Property is one issue Best Buy tackles head-on, stating that “by providing Best Buy with your website, blog, microblog, or video sharing account URL or user ID, you grant Best Buy an irrevocable and unrestricted worldwide license to use, modify, reproduce, transmit, display, and distribute the Content on Your Site for any purpose whatsoever to the extent permitted by law.”

Respect – be professional at all times, and don't air internal grievances in public: The American Red Cross urges restraint and consideration, pointing out that “anyone, including your colleagues, may be actively reading what you publish online. In choosing your words and your content, it’s a good practice to imagine that your supervisor and your family are reading everything you post. It’s all about judgment: using your Weblog to bash or embarrass the Red Cross, our clients, our donors or your co-workers isn’t smart or professional.” The organization's guidelines suggest that “if you have suggestions for improvements at the Red Cross, please state them constructively or better yet, go through the proper channels to air your concerns and share your suggestions.”

Accountability – be up front about you are, and any affiliations you may have: DePaul University's guidelines call for bring “honest about your identity,” even when off-campus. “If you choose to post about DePaul on your personal time, please identify yourself as a DePaul faculty or staff member. Never hide your identity for the purpose of promoting DePaul through social media.” The university also reminds participants that the US Federal Trade Commission requires bloggers and those who write online reviews “to reveal if they have been compensated in any way—a free copy of a book, dinner, complementary admission—or have a relationship to a company, product or service they review.”

Knowledge – stick to what you know best: Intel Corporation wants its countless technology experts to flourish in the social media space in their specific areas of expertise. “Make sure you write and post about your areas of expertise, especially as related to Intel and our technology. If you are writing about a topic that Intel is involved with but you are not the Intel expert on the topic, you should make this clear to your readers.”

Privacy – observe customer confidentiality: Again, Sahota didn't provide any working examples from insurers, I did find some sound guidelines posted by Family Heritage Life Insurance Company. Above all, the company emphasizes customer privacy in social media discussions: “As an insurance company, FHL operates in a highly regulated industry... As a general matter, policyholder and consumer issues are most appropriately dealt with in forums other than social media sites. Please do not comment on policyholder and consumer matters without FHL’s approval... Do not post about any confidential information, including FHL’s financial performance, policy holder or claims information, sales materials or proprietary information.”

Thanks to my colleague Bill Ives for surfacing Sahota's guidelines. (And, in the interest of transparency, I also post on Bill's FastForward site.)

Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.

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