This week the Associated Press gave its staff AP Social Media Guidelines for Staff, just a week after it reminded employees of their responsibilities as members of the media to remain neutral on social networks.
The new guidelines are much more detailed not only on the tone of posts, but on the relationships that exist people between social networks. While the “Opinion” portion of the guidelines are straightforward, they aren’t new. For all the commenters lamenting/ranting about the loss of free speech implied by these rules, the fact is that personal conduct guidelines are nothing new in the professional world, and reporters have always been held to a higher standard and restricted from participating in political protests and the like. I learned this in first year J-school classes as an undergrad, and I’m glad the standards are still in place. The only new element here is the venue, in this instance social networks.
AP wisely encourages employees to take advantage of Facebook privacy settings, particularly in light of this requirement: “It’s important to monitor your profile page to make sure material posted by others doesn’t violate AP standards; any such material should be deleted.” I’ve done a good job of keeping the crackpots away from my social accounts, but every now and then someone posts something weird or inflammatory and I would hate to get in trouble for that mistake. For AP staff the best solution is to keep your bosses separate from those potential offenders, which is possible through the Facebook groups (and now Google+), but not available with Twitter.
I’m most intrigued by the rules about friending/following, especially among AP staff:
Managers should not issue friend requests to subordinates. It’s fine if employees want to initiate the friend process with their bosses.
I can think of a million reasons why this may not work (promotions? departures?) but its interesting that they address relationships among staff while also looking at external ones. Overall this update is robust and sensible–more companies would do well to follow AP’s lead.