Thursday, March 17, 2011

Strict social media policies: NYTimes benefits without one, Wall St. may need them

Early on in the world of blogging, Microsoft decided it didn't need a special policy for employees who blog about the company--except that all its existing policies would still apply. The company saved itself a lot of trouble by avoiding a draconian social media policy. And the same thing is happening at the New York Times in terms of its Twitter policies. Several Times reporters speaking at the Online News Association noted that the lack of a strict Twitter policy had allowed that news organization to thrive online. In general, the panel praised the lack of a tightly reined-in policy, although reporters acknowledged some awkward limits: 

[Senior styles web producer Simon] Oliver acknowledged instances when an editor has deleted tweets the editor found to be out of line ― which panelists agreed is a huge no-no. Just like you wouldn't delete a story, you shouldn't delete a tweet.
The experience is another sign that news organizations still struggle with the ethics and correction practices for social media. “I wish Twitter would come up with some sort of correction mechanism,” noted Liz Heron, social media editor at the Times. 
The Times's public editor this weekend weighed in on its use of Twitter, surveying reporters and editors informally, and even discussing what the business risk might be for the Times. But he sums up by saying:
So far, the laissez-faire approach has generated staff enthusiasm for Twitter, and nothing terrible has happened. Perhaps the most remembered misstep came a year ago when a reporter covering Toyota, in a fit of frustration with the company’s handling of a press conference, tweeted, “Toyota sucks.”
Fittingly, the Times's Patrick LaForge--one of its power Twitter users--posted the entire transcript of his interview with the public editor about his Twitter use so you can see all his comments.

Looks like investment firms may not be so lucky, however. Fortune reports that the Securities and Exchange Commission is scrutinizing firms' social media policies and posts, looking for violations of its rules. Regarding policies, the article notes, "The SEC is now asking registered advisers about their social media policies, and we have heard that examiners are writing up findings on firms that do not have written policies and documented procedures around the use of social media."

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