Digital Policies

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FIR On Strategy with Andrea VascellariThis is part of a series of posts that explores the “Adaptive Digital Strategy Framework” , an operative guide that I created to plan, execute and manage online strategy programs more effectively and efficiently. Each of post of this series comes with an audio podcast in which you will find the audio version of the post with additional audio commentary about the discussed topics. The name of the podcast is “FIR On Strategy with Andrea Vascellari”.

In today’s post/cast we are going to explore how policies can assist in both subjective and objective decision making related to “digital”. We’ll understand what a policy is, why it’s important in “digital”, which are the main policy typologies and then I’ll close by sharing with you some resources and tools that you can use to craft your policies from scratch or to take your existing ones to the next level.

What’s a policy and why it’s important in “digital”?

A policy is a protocol to guide decisions and achieve rational outcomes. Policies help to create an internal management framework and they should be at the heart of every organization. It’s this internal management framework that people that work for the organization rely upon.

Imagine them as guides that answer the “what” and “how” questions for individuals within an organization. For example, “What is the organization’s policy regarding twitting from my personal account?” or “How can I use this/X social network to the greatest benefit for the organization?”.

Policies have been around since the early days of this hyperconnected digital world, when blogging was the first form of public online social interaction. The digital landscape has evolved into something more complex than that since then. Social networks, social media, location based services, new media channels, mobile, and real time communication are just some of the new ingredients that got added to the mix.

Digital keeps transforming and maturing, so it’s certainly in the best interest of all organizations who activate their workforce in online systems to periodically verify that these policies are updated and operating effectively.

Digital Policy Typologies

Looking at “digital” I’ve noticed that, for the most part, we can group policies in three main categories:

  • Organizational Policy: This type of policy guides employees on how they can or cannot use social media on behalf of the organization. Sometimes organizations call this “Social Media Policy”, I tend to simply classify it as “Organizational Policy” because social media is just one of the factors that an organization should look at. This is an internal facing policy.
  • Participation Policy: This type of policy defines how employees and external participants should interact, behave and communicate on online properties managed, or branded, by the organization. These policies are also known as “Community Management Policies”. This is an external facing policy. I will link back to Participation Policies in an upcoming post dedicated to “Public Facing Moderation Plans”.
  • Privacy Policy: This type of policy explains how the organization protects the personal and private information that is typically shared/collected on the organization’s website. It informs about what specific information is collected, and whether it is kept confidential, shared with partners, or sold to/shared with to other organizations. Since there’s already enough information online about Privacy Policies I’m not going to dive into it in this cast/post.

In certain organizations you might find separate policies or some combination of the three but these are usually the main categories it boils down to.

Organizational/Social Media Policy Checklist

Policies that fall into the first category, Organizational/Social Media Policies, seem to be the policies that organizations are struggling with the most so I prepared a list of questions that will help you and your organization to get started on the right foot.

These are questions that I usually suggest organizations to focus on when they are creating a new policy from scratch or when they are reviewing/updating policies that they have already in place.

Your Organizational/Social Media Policy should answer these questions:

  1. What are the goals of your policy?
  2. Which social networks or other new media channels will your organization maintain a presence on?
  3. How will you maintain a consistent social presence across these networks and channels?
  4. Will you encourage employees to participate online, in social networks and social media channels as a representative of your brand?
  5. How will you update your policy and spread it across the organization?
  6. What information about your business/activities can employees share online?
  7. Who will respond on your organization’s behalf?

Useful resources

Here’s a list of excellent resources that will help you craft or take your policies to the next level.

  • Eric Schwartzman has released a fantastic online course entirely dedicated to Social Media Policies. This cast/post is not sponsored by Eric. I simply recommend you to have a look at what he created because it’s definitely worth it. Eric is a dear friend of mine, if you have any question about his online courses feel free to get in touch with him via Twitter @ericschwartzman or on his personal website at
  • Chris Boudreaux has put together a terrific list of more than 130 organizational policies at My only suggestion about this? Don’t copy and paste. Study these policies and then create your own. It’s the only way to equip your organization with solid guidelines that will support you effectively.
  • PolicyTool – If you need something quick to get started with, this is a tool that I’m sure you are going to find very helpful. You basically answer a brief questionnaire and at the end you get a complete social media policy customized to your company. My suggestion? Once you get your policy done I would recommend you to customize it even further. Automation can help, but it can’t replace human analysis. You, better than anybody else, know your organization inside out.

Over to You

What I shared in this cast/post is based on my experience. What would you add to it? Is there any other resource or tool that you would add to the list? Any suggestion or tip based on your experience? Would you approach this differently? What have I missed? Let me know in the comments.

Andrea @vascellari
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