IEEE’s Social Media Policy Explained

Guidelines cover best practices and more

20 January 2012

It’s rare these days to find an organization that doesn’t have a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, or other social media websites. To avoid untoward surprises, organizations are instituting policies outlining the dos and don’ts of using such sites. Recently, IEEE followed suit.

IEEE’s policy covers the use of social media on behalf of or associated with IEEE and is aimed at anyone dealing with the organization: members, volunteers, employees, vendors, consultants, and contract workers. The policy defines social media as “any websites, portals, or other digital-based applications that allow individuals to post and share content publicly, and which allow other individuals to view, respond to, and share this content further.”

Why are such guidelines needed? The goal is to ensure that all IEEE-related content on such sites is consistent with the organization’s mission and objectives. In other words: no surprises. To that end, the policy sets forth best practices for posting information. Things to bear in mind include:

  • When mentioning IEEE in a recommendation, referral, or opinion, you must note that you do not represent or reflect the views of IEEE.
  • Never impersonate someone else, or intentionally obscure your identity or association with IEEE.
  • When quoting someone, provide citations traceable to that person.
  • If you use images, they must not violate copyright laws or trademark rights.
  • You are personally responsible for whatever you publish online. If you identify yourself as an IEEE member, volunteer, employee, vendor, consultant, or contract worker, ensure that what you say about yourself looks professional.
  • Do not upload inappropriate content.
  • Do not post advertisements, promotions, or solicitations for products and services unless permitted by the administrators of the social media site.
  • Post information that is accurate and reputable. If in doubt about the reliability of the information’s source, consider not using it. If you must use it, indicate that its accuracy could not be verified.
  • If you make a mistake—whether a factual inaccuracy or an inappropriate comment—admit it and correct it promptly. If needed, contact the IEEE Social Media Help Forum to help fix a mistake. The forum is composed of IEEE staff with expertise in using social media.
  • If an item you post generates comments, monitor them and respond when appropriate.
  • Avoid giving irritable or angry responses, especially when you disagree with a commenter. Point out errors, but never disparage or defame the person. Remember: Published posts are usually impossible to remove completely.
  • If you report on a particular matter—especially as it relates to IEEE business—your readers will expect that you have the most up-to-date information. So stick to your areas of expertise and confirm information before you post.

Following proper practices is important for other reasons including, as the policy puts it, “to protect individuals engaged in social media-related activities and IEEE, as information published online may be discoverable and used in court.”

What if you do more than just post about IEEE—what if you administer an IEEE social media site? In that case, there are more best practices to consider:

  • Register your site with IEEE. Whether you are running a blog, maintaining a Facebook page, organizing a LinkedIn group, or heading any other social media site operated on behalf of IEEE, you must register your site. Doing so means that you agree to follow the social media policy and its best practices. Once registered, your site will be included in a registered listing of IEEE social media pages, and you will receive updates on the policy as well as other news from the IEEE Social Media Help Forum.
  • Include a way for readers to report inappropriate content to you, and make sure they can contact you easily.
  • Link your site to official policies, and abide by them. For example, IEEE requires a link and adherence to its nondiscrimination policy. Ensure your site complies with all applicable laws, employer or university policies, IEEE policies, and confidentiality agreements.
  • Assign at least two administrators to the site and have a succession plan if one can no longer participate.
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