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Most business owners are aware that having a social media presence is important for the success of their businesses. While social media presents unthinkable growth opportunity, it also opens the company up to risk.

Thus, it is critical for a business owner to create and implement a strong social media policy that gives the company and its employees the freedom to grow through social media, while putting a set of concrete rules and guidelines in place that will keep the troops in line.

However, when you consider that no two social media policies will be the same because different organizations will have their own unique environments, it is important to call in the experts.

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1. Create a task force: Opinions and ethics may vary between different people; it is preferable that all members of upper management be consulted when developing a social media policy so that all reach agreement on policy content.

2. Define appropriate internal use: It is important to outline what is acceptable and what is not to your employees when it comes to using social media platforms in the workplace. How much freedom employees will have when interacting on social media needs to be clarified based on your workplace environment in order to avoid any confusion.

3. Define appropriate external use: As we have seen time and time again, one slip on Facebook or Twitter can ruin a career or a business. Thus, it is important to define who will be allowed to communicate with the public and put an approval process in place.

4. Confidentiality: Content posted on social media platforms need to comply with the organization's confidentiality and disclosure of proprietary data policies.

5. Accountability: Employees need to be held accountable for everything they write on social media sites.

6. Protect employers reputation: Employees have the duty to protect their employer's reputation. It would also be useful to make employees aware that competitors might read what they post and thus that sensitive information is not to be disclosed as a consequence.

7. Be clear on copyright issues: It is advisable to include a clause dealing with copyright, plagiarism, libel and defamation of character issues.

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8. Regularly review and update policy: Regular reviews need to be organized and performed. A policy is not always consistent with what is actually taking place and the company need to pay attention and adjust accordingly to make sure it is a relevant and effective policy that promotes growth and safety.

9. Work hard, play less: It is important to stress that social networking sites cannot interfere with primary job responsibilities so that employees do not lose perspective

10. To whom does it apply: The social media policy needs to clarify who to treat as internal staff and thus who will follow the social media policy rules when external resources are brought in.

Steve Nicholls is the author of Social Media in Business, international speaker, and social media strategist who helps business executives implement a winning social media strategy into their organization.

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