More Social Media Policies: LA Times, Harvard Law, Microsoft, and Cisco

In our earlier story (Corporate Social Media Policies: The Good, the Mediocre, and the Ugly), we asked you to send us more corporate social media policies, and you delivered. Here is a second batch, with good, mediocre and ugly guidelines. If you’ve not already done so – please send yours to

social media policies


In our earlier story (Corporate Social Media Policies: The Good, the Mediocre, and the Ugly), we asked you to send us more corporate social media policies, and you delivered. Here is a second batch, with good, mediocre and ugly guidelines.

If you’ve not already done so – please send yours to

LA Timesshared by Martin Beck, LA Times Reader Engagement Editor


Elegantly worded and thoughtful, the LA Times social media guide was revised late last year to be more “user friendly.” It begins with a bit pulled from the news organization’s Ethics Guidelines: “The Times is to be, above all else, a principled news organization. In deed and in appearance, journalists must keep themselves – and The Times – above reproach,” yet recognizes the push-pull of social media networks as useful tools for journalists.

Here are some other points:

Assume that your professional life and your personal life will merge online regardless of your care in separating them.

Be aware of inadvertent disclosures or the perception of disclosures. For example, consider that “friending” a professional contact may publicly identify that person as one of your sources.

Using social media sites means that you (and the content you exchange) are subject to their terms of service. This can have legal implications, including the possibility that your interactions could be subject to a third-party subpoena. The social media network has access to and control over everything you have disclosed to or on that site. For instance, any information might be turned over to law enforcement without your consent or even your knowledge. (remember the Gizmodo reporter?)

ABC (Australia’s public broadcasting network)shared by Martin Beck of the LA Times


ABC’s social media guidelines shoot straight from the hip with four directives and sections on flexibility and responsibility. The main points:

Do not mix the professional and the personal in ways likely to bring the ABC into disrepute.

Do not undermine your effectiveness at work.

Do not imply ABC endorsement of your personal views.

Do not disclose confidential information obtained through work.

Ciscoshared by Alex Romano, Project Specialist, Social Media Communications at Cisco

Beginning with the somewhat ominous-sounding, “We take social media seriously at Cisco,” the actual guidelines (updated last month) are part of a continuing effort to maintain the company’s “culture of transparency.” 


Thus follows a 16-page handbook with all sorts of directives ranging from, “Cisco employees may use social networking sites while at work and to conduct business” to “Do not commit Cisco to any action unless you have authority to do so,” and “know it’s almost impossible to completely remove information from the social web.” 

Those that follow were shared by Leo Hugo Senior Marketing Strategist – Europe Acxiom Digital

American Red Cross 


The American Red Cross’ rules for social engagement are divided in sections beginning with an FAQ which includes such nuggets as:

What if people leave mean comments on our Red Cross blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, Flickr photos, etc?

If you’re following the guidelines and our philosophy, this won’t happen very often.

If you’d like to moderate your comments, you can use this lawyer-approved language:

Remember, we encourage you to comment on this blog. All viewpoints are welcome, but please be constructive. We reserve the right to make editorial decisions regarding submitted comments, including but not limited to removal of comments. The comments are moderated, so you may have to be a tiny bit patient in waiting to see them. We will review and post them as promptly as possible during regular business hours (Monday through Friday, 8:30 – 5:30).

That’s followed up with a listing of SM tools available to local chapters with bulleted points on how to listen to the existing online conversation, how to determine which is the right forum for the chapter (ie: do potential YouTube admins film a lot of video?), and tips for setting up FB cause pages, Twitter sites, etc.

General Motors 


GM’s blogging guidelines are very simple and give a hat tip to Charlene Li of Forrester:

We will tell the truth. We will acknowledge and correct any mistakes promptly.

We will not delete comments unless they are spam, off-topic, or defamatory.

We will reply to comments when appropriate as promptly as possible.

We will link to online references and original source materials directly

We will disagree with other opinions respectfully.

Harvard Law 

Think this one is going to be dense and chock-full of legalese? Though it’s not exactly written in plain English, the one page document by titled “Terms of Use” is a straightforward take on how to blog under Harvard’s domain. Not surprisingly, the first point deals with copyrights, but goes on to include:


As a general matter, you may post content freely to your blog and to those of others, so long as the content is not illegal, obscene, defamatory, threatening, infringing of intellectual property rights, invasive of privacy or otherwise injurious or objectionable.

You may not use the Harvard name to endorse or promote any product, opinion, cause or political candidate. Representation of your personal opinions as institutionally endorsed by Harvard University or any of its Schools or organizations is strictly prohibited.

There is also the standard ‘hold harmless’ clause:

You represent and warrant also that the content you supply does not violate these Terms, and that you will indemnify and hold Harvard harmless for any and all claims resulting from content you supply.

Then, there’s this:

Collecting personal information from children under the age of 13 is prohibited.

We don’t even want to know why Harvard felt the need to include that.



Crafted in the FAQ style (with a bit of lingo borrowed from the alcoholic beverage manufacturers), Microsoft’s social media policy encourages employees to use Twitter and blogging sites with care.

What content may I post? What content must I not post?

Please refer to Microsoft’s Blogging FAQ for general guidance on blogging at Microsoft. In line with those guidelines, Microsoft encourages and trusts its employees to micro-blog sensibly and responsibly.

Do I need to clear my posts before making them?

As a general rule, Microsoft does not review, edit, censor, or, obviously, endorse individual posts. You should “be smart” and, as an employee of the company, you should not only think about how your blog reflects on you as an individual, but also about how your blog affects Microsoft as a whole. How would it look on Slashdot or on the front page of the New York Times? What would your manager or VP think? If you’re posting about another team’s product, what would they and their management think? Could a customer or partner make a wrong decision based on your posting? What would a competitor do with your posting? Using your public blog to gratuitously trash Microsoft, our products, partners or competitors reflects poorly on all of us.



According to the department store chain’s brass, social media is fun, but risky. In other words “no line between what is public and what is private.” As such only “approved” employees are allowed to use it (no mention of how one gets approved status) under Nordstrom’s purview as a way to connect with customers and offer improved service.

Some highlights:

Be humble

• Stay away from boasting about customer service. As we all know, our number one goal is to offer each customer great service but we’re certainly not perfect and we do make mistakes. Let’s stay focused on working to deliver great service instead of talking about it. 

Be human

• Keep in mind that you won’t always know all the answers.

• Don’t be afraid to seek help and advice from others. 

Does your company’s social media policy stack up? Send examples to


Earlier: Corporate Social Media Policies: The Good, the Mediocre, and the Ugly


About the author

Lydia Dishman is a staff editor for Fast Company's Work Life section. She has written for CBS Moneywatch, Fortune, The Guardian, Popular Science, and the New York Times, among others.


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