Victorian Periodicals, Slideshare and the need for a Social Media Policy

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Social media has brought about the kind of self publishing revolution experienced in Victorian England, but instead of standing on a soap box to broadcast our news, distribution is universal and instant therefore requiring effective social media guidelines for companies and their agencies. The availability of low cost printing and an educated middle class in 19 th Century England, enjoying the expansion of wealth from Empire, spawned over 100,000 titles of periodicals and penny newspapers . The availability of low cost publishing technology, ubiquity of the internet and growth of leisure time has created a similar explosion of self publishing that is fraught with potential mischief. Recently, we learnt an awkward lesson about the need for a set of social media guidelines for both EASTWEST and our clients. We have a legal disclaimer in our contracts covering warranties and indemnities for confidential information but these are no longer enough once the channels of communication are not structured within the confines of firewalls and email boxes. In the era of ubiquitous content search anything that is placed in space can and will be found. From Beijing we posted to our EASTWEST slideshare account an internal sales presentation and embedded the link on our internal blog. Within one week we had an email from a client in Arizona who had received an email from a sales agent in Nevada complaining that we had posted company confidential information to a public space. An individual searching the site found our presentation due to the file name. The issue escalated until we took down our own presentation. To make matters worse the file was found again one week later tucked away, forgotten on an employee slideshare account. After this wake up call, we created the 3A’s of Social Media Policy. Approve the idea Approve the content Approve the medium An extended set of guidelines includes the following summary: While we encourage consultants to participate in social media of various kinds, we also expect everyone to understand and follow these simple but important guidelines. Safeguard the privacy rights of clients Client policies have precedence over Agency policies Don’t misuse EASTWEST resources Respect copyrights At Intel the guidelines include a note which says ‘“Perception is reality.” In online social networks, the lines between public and private, personal and professional are blurred. As we found, information can be shared by anyone at anytime and anywhere – carrying the same legitimacy as if on the official site. The attitude to periodicals in the 19 th Century was akin to that which many view blogs and social media today. ‘We tend to think of periodicals and newspapers as less important than printed books: `cheap’, so disposable; not `standard’ in size, so not book-shelf material; less carefully and seriously produced, so less to be heeded; not written primarily by scholars, thinkers, the important folk in our society,’ writes John North of Victorian Periodicals. He continues, ‘yet these responses are little more than unwarranted prejudice. We ourselves probably read more periodicals and newspapers than we do printed books, whether for casual information about our current world, or for the most essential details of our trade or profession or of the organisations in which we participate.’ Social media will, like the Periodicals of the 19 th Century, continue to proliferate and control will be nearly impossible, but policies need to be established. If you want to let others know you have them, you could post them to slideshare.

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