Running a business or organisation without an in-house social media policy is truly living on the wild side - you can bank on thrills and spills.
When I was a kid we lived at the top of a steep climb. I still recall with chilling clarity hurtling down that long and unforgiving hill on my bike only to realise, before it was too late, my brakes weren't working.
I smashed into a telephone pole just metres from the busy intersection at the bottom of the hill. My bike was a write-off. Fortunately, I was unscathed - but the valuable lesson for me was to always - always - take the right precautions.
Many businesses are focused on increasing their engagement with their customers through social media. But an area that goes ignored, akin to riding without brakes or driving without car insurance, is how their own employees use social media and talk about the organisation.
Basically, what are the rules?
Employees or those associated with your organisation may not want to intentionally damage your business, but the potential is high if there are no parameters. In short, it is an accident waiting to happen.
Ten or 20 years ago a company could sustain friendly fire or the occasional stack. It could rely on the equity of goodwill built over time to shore up any response.
Not today. One own goal can quickly convert to a big viral problem. Just one errant tweet can sit in Google until a prospective customer discovers it to your disadvantage. I've seen it happen and had to manage many cases.
Framing a social media policy for your workforce should comprise three essentials.
I'm amazed by the number of businesses, indeed many where social media is central to their activities, that do not have an internal policy for use.
If you're not sure where to start, here's good news: I've prepared a Social Media Policy Template.
On your social media journey, make sure you stay on the right road, not become a crash test dummy.
Stuart Howie is a Canberra-based communications consultant. He is the author of The DIY Newsroom, which won Social Media Book of the Year at the Australian Business Book Awards. Stuart has worked in media, publishing and communications for more than 30 years as an executive, editor and strategist.