Write Down Your Social Media Policy or Get Written Up By the SEC

As if IROs weren’t nervous enough about using social media, Fortune reports that the Securities and Exchange Commission is asking “registered advisers” at investment firms about their company’s social media policies. And the mag hears that the SEC is “writing up findings on firms” that don’t have a policy. Eeek.

Fortune goes a step further, suspecting that personal social network accounts will also be lumped in with corporate tweets and other postings when regulators consider the sum total of all shared information about a public company. Eeek Eeek.

“Investment firms that do not have a strict policy about personal use of social media may be shocked to find out how much their employees are Tweeting, blogging, Facebooking, Linking, etc., about where they work,” the story says. The same could be said for other public companies. But honestly, there should be no surprise.

At this point, everyone ought to have a social media policy written and it should be included with the new-hire packets, updated as new technologies become popular, and discussed at corporate get-togethers to remind everyone that this is serious business. If you don’t have one, get a cup of tea, turn off all the devices, and put pen to paper on that like this afternoon.

Then, if you’re monitoring what’s being said about your company online and speaking with employees about what they can’t discuss, the only shocker should be that other companies aren’t doing the same.

Time and again, IROs and others have complained about the lack of guidance that the SEC’s 2008 guidance actually provided. This is true and companies can continue urging regulators to better define what they’re looking for. But in the meantime, public businesses can’t put their heads in the sand thinking that because they’re using traditional methods for earnings disclosure, that’s the end of the social media story. There should be a game plan for how social media is used for all sorts of corporate information. And you should decide what it is before the SEC gets involved.