In a recent column for MediaPost, Jupiter Research President David Schatsky wrote about social media.  In his piece, he raised examples of some high-profile social media misfires, and that’s where I had to respectfully disagree.  His claim is that it takes a certain amount of emotional intelligence, awareness, and social skills for marketers to be able to participate in social media.

I think it’s a lot simpler than that: Set some guidelines (what we all used to call “ground rules”) before you start.

Just because a publication or brand opens itself up and welcomes user-generated content doesn’t absolve it from responsibility to manage the venue or at least establish boundaries of expectations. All you do is establish a very clear policy beforehand.  It needs to be straightforward and (this is key) very simple to understand

“Our goal is to provide a meeting place for online conversation to happen, and so we will delete any posts that are rude, obscene, or off-topic.”

Why do marketers think this is so hard? 

When anyone complains, you direct them to the policy.  Nobody’s limiting anyone’s free speech here.  If they complain, ask them to start their own blog. 

The important thing is to establish this very early on from the very start.  Just as there are rules and laws that guide offline behavior, anyone getting into social media must establish them for online as well.  It really is quite simple … and would have saved Digg, JetBlue, the LA Times, and others a LOT of PR grief.

So let’s stop the spin that social media is too unwieldly to manage. It’s unwarranted and is doing irreparable damage to the medium.

Learn more:

David Schatsky’s piece on MediaPost


–          Michael Rubin