Wait. Is that a social media policy or a guideline?

Your company needs a social media policy, but sometimes that is confused with social media guidelines. They’re not the same thing.

Policies are usually mandatory for employees to follow. They are more “written in stone” and not following them has consequences. Hootsuite has done a post on how to write a social media policy

ethicsGenerally, social media guidelines are more flexible and are often changed as new needs emerge. They are things that we could call best practices.

The communications and PR firm, Ogilvy and Mathers, has a set of guidelines that grew out of an ethics code from 2005 that was their Blogger Outreach Code of Ethics. They describe them as their “ethics not something handed down through culture or a governing body,” which would be more of a policy.

I have been working on a new course on social media ethics and law. There are so many topics in that area. Take as an example the use of images. You’re pretty safe legally when you create original artwork that you own, but in social media we often use and reuse through retweets and reposts.

lawI think that ethical issues are the first concern for an organization. But at some point ethics moves over into the land of law.

In properly and legally using images, you need to know the legal aspects of copyright and image licenses. Most of those legal aspects have emerged from older media law and are still evolving.

The guidelines your organization might formulate could include the best image sizes for each social media platform. What size should we use for Facebook posts as opposed to a tweet? When should we buy images, when should we use reuse an image already online and when should we create an original image?

Knowing the differences in licenses is pretty complicated. Take the law and ethics images I used in this piece. I found them using the Creative Commons (CC) search tool at search.creativecommons.org. In this case, I searched via that site into Google images and it showed ones labeled for reuse commercial purposes and that you can modify, adapt, or build upon.

Okay, here’s your quiz question:  An organization says that an image might only be used if it is CC vetted as able to be reused for commercial use. Is that a guideline or a policy?

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