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13 Social Media Rules to Live By

These rules are loosely adapted from IBM's social networking policy--with an extra dollop of common sense.

Social networks are now commonplace in sales, marketing, and general business communications. Unfortunately, some people still don't know how to use social media in the workplace without landing in hot water.

Here are the rules, loosely adapted from IBM's social networking policy with an extra dollop of common sense:

1. DON'T provide confidential or other proprietary information. If there's any question in your mind, err on the side of keeping silent.

2. DO identify yourself by name and, when relevant, your role, when you discuss your company or matters relating to it.

3. DON'T write in the first person plural (e.g. "we", "us", "our"). Make it clear you speak for yourself and not on behalf of your firm.

4. DO be mindful that whatever you publish will be public for a long time, possibly for your entire career.

5. DON'T violate copyright, fair use, or financial disclosure laws.  When you quote somebody, link back to the source if possible.

6. DO make certain that your online profiles and related content are consistent with how you wish to present yourself to colleagues and clients.

7. DON'T assume that posting anonymously will keep your true identity secret if you publish inappropriate comments and content.

8. DO take personal responsibility for the content that you publish on blogs, wikis, or any other public forum.

9. DON'T forget that your firm's brand is represented by its people and what you publish will inevitably reflect on that brand.

10. DO your best to add value by providing worthwhile information and perspective rather than mere opinion and bluster.

11. DON'T cite or refer to the firm's clients, partners, or suppliers without their approval.  Doing so could land your firm in legal trouble.

12. DO show proper consideration for others' privacy and for sensitivities that may exist concerning politics and religion.

13. DON'T use ethnic slurs, personal insults, obscenity, or engage in any online conduct that would not be acceptable at work.

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Last updated: May 1, 2014


Geoffrey James, a contributing editor for, is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed more than a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know. If you enjoyed this post, sign up for the free weekly Sales Source newsletter.

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