Social Media Guidelines: help your bloggers and tweeters help you

At the American Shakespeare Center, we are getting ready to expand our social media footprint.  Internally, this plan has met with a rich combination of excitement and concern.  What happens when we let our ASC family loose on Twitter, YouTube, and blogs?  How can we make sure that we are all representing the ASC in a way that enhances our brand and deepens the conversation with all our communities?  In order to help ease fears and to help our social media volunteers feel supported, I began putting together social media guidelines.

Besides guidelines, we also felt it necessary to be clear on our goal for this social media outreach.  This is what we determined:

The overarching goal of all our social media outreach is to spread the word about what a fantastic organization this is and the passionate, compelling work that goes on in the Playhouse, office, classrooms, and on the road.  Also, to engage in conversation about who we are, what we do, why we do it the way we do, what we are learning, how much fun we are having, and what is going on in the industry.

After a lot of conversation on Twitter, I’ve decided to post our guidelines here.  Let me know what you think and feel free to pass on anything you find useful.

These guidelines were compiled with help from the guidelines of Intel, as published in Engage! by Brian Solis, and Time Warner Cable, as published in the Fast Company article, “Corporate Social Media Policies: The Good, the Mediocre, and the Ugly” (

Social Media Guidelines for the American Shakespeare Center

We are excited about the potential for engaging our current and potential audience through social media.  The connections made possible through blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and other social networks allow for a more direct conversation with all the people who love us already and those who would like to hear about us.  We hope that you will want to join us in these conversations and we want you to feel prepared when you do.  Below are a few guidelines to help everyone engage in a way that supports the brand values of the American Shakespeare Center: serious fun, life-long learning, community, and great language.

  • Transparency is vital. Whether you are communicating on an official ASC channel or not, please know that you represent the American Shakespeare Center.  It is best to include a mention of your connection in your profile and also mention it when posting comments on blogs that are related to what we do.
  • Private vs. Public. Don’t publish confidential or other proprietary information.  Anything having to do with legal, internal personnel, or confidential financial matters should never be discussed outside of appropriate internal communications.  Follow copyright, fair use and financial disclosure laws.
  • Write what you know. Stick to your area of expertise and provide unique, individual perspectives on what’s going on at the ASC and in the world.
  • Learn from others. Use the web to find out who else is blogging or publishing on a topic of particular interest and cite those individuals, including links to their work.
  • Ask before you speak. Don’t cite or reference clients, partners or suppliers without their prior approval. When a reference is made, where possible, link back to the source.
  • The web is a permanent record. Items posted online will likely be indexed by search engines and copied by other sites, so it can remain public and associated with you even if the original post is deleted. Post with care.
  • Be professional. Treat others with the utmost respect in your conversations.  Ethnic slurs, personal insults, foul language, or conduct that would not be acceptable in our offices should not be used.
  • Give the benefit of the doubt. Most everyone is doing the best they can with the knowledge they have.  Please assume that they meant no ill will until proven otherwise and then see the next guideline.
  • Avoid the trolls. Refrain from engaging in heated discussion and use good judgment when expressing opinions that may pose a potential conflict. Do not post angry comments or attack individuals engaging in the discussion.  If someone attacks you, reply politely and disengage.
  • Play nice. Do not insult or disparage ASC, its productions or offerings, or any fellow employees, even if specific names are not mentioned.  The same goes for other theatres or “competitors” of any kind.
  • Proof your work. Knowing that the web often takes on a more casual tone, please remember that language is part of the bedrock of our mission.  Read it over before you post and keep in mind the writing guidelines Ralph put together.
  • If it gives you pause, pause. Please don’t post something that you would not say openly to a room full of patrons, donors, and strangers.  If you are about to publish something that makes you even the slightest bit uncomfortable, stop and think.  Ultimately, what you publish is yours, as is the responsibility.  Also, do not alter previous posts without indicating that you have done so.

14 thoughts on “Social Media Guidelines: help your bloggers and tweeters help you

  1. Thanks so much for sharing these guidelines, Amy. These are mindful, clear, concise; I’ll be interested to learn how it goes for ASC as you open up the social media conversation!

  2. Thank you, Amy, for sharing this information. I agree with Kate (above) that the Guidelines provide a clear frame of reference for ASC tweeters. And I saw your re-tweet in which one of them suggested using the “ASC” acronym as an ASK device. Great fun! Congratulations on a job well done.

    The second part of the ASC social media goal strikes me as right on target. Key word: engage. The first part, if I may be so bold, may be misleading to your company: “spread the word about what a fantastic organization this is and the passionate, compelling work that goes on in the Playhouse, office, classrooms, and on the road.” It is advertisement-like, in that it is all about you. Problem: on the internet these days if you say it about yourself, no one believes it. The endorsements must come from elsewhere.

    Rather than tweeting about how terrific the company is (which I’m sure is true) it is worth considering the idea of “sharing useful information” with your followers. That requires getting to know them first, in order to understand what they value. This approach will eventually establish ASC as a thought leader in its particular niche, and will bring followers back again and again because they’ll be so appreciative of your impact on what they do. Your goal of “spreading the word” will be accomplished over time, through little bits of knowledge-sharing, and without tweeting about how wonderful you are, which just doesn’t work.

    I suggest putting a simple strategy in place to accomplish this goal. I believe that the collective effort will grow exponentially, releasing the genius of your company into the world.

    (My two cents.)

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Ann. You are right, the “goal” part of this was a little misleading. We aim to accomplish the first part of the overarching goal exactly in the way you describe. At our social media meeting we spoke in depth about the fact that the foundation of good social media outreach is interaction. The guidelines of “write what you know” and “learn from others” are key to our strategy, which I feel goes right to the heart of your “sharing useful information” idea. Please let us know how we are doing as we start this expansion!

  3. Thanks for sharing – this is a short and sweet policy. Any organization or individual would benefit from reviewing this list before composing or posting a social media entry. Kept to the essentials like this – your team is more like to read and retain the policy guidelines. Bravo!

  4. When people ask me what a good general rule of thumb for social media is, I always tell them to use the same etiquette they would use in the grocery store. If you’re the kind of person who loudly drops the f-bomb in the cereal aisle, you’re likely to do it on the web as well. If you say demeaning things about coworkers waiting in the checkout line surrounded by strangers (you hope!) – you’re likely to do it on Facebook as well.

    The only bastion an org has against questionable social media behavior is hiring good people in the first place. I do appreciate the guidelines, and will use and republish them with many thanks!

    1. Exactly, Chris. We were just having that conversation in the office this morning. I’ve heard it said that 90% of the director’s job is casting. I feel the same way about hiring in the office. You have to get the right people in the right seats on the bus (to pull from Jim Collins) first, give them a roadmap, and then let them take you further than you could have gone on your own. Please let me know how your use of the guidelines progresses and any decisions you make about additions & variations on these. I see this as a living document. We can’t know all the situations with which we will be faced, but we have to start somewhere.

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