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Online House Rules (Social Media Policy Statements)

A quick statement to facilitate moderation.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer


It’s quick and easy to estab­lish online house rules.

Each example of a social media state­ment aims to foster a pos­it­ive and inclus­ive com­munity while set­ting the tone for accept­able interactions.

Here we go:

Online House Rules

Establish online house rules (social media policy statements).
Establish online house rules (social media policy statements).
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Online House Rules (Social Media Policy Statements)

An organ­isa­tion’s social media accounts must be man­aged. While social media reac­tions can­not be fully con­trolled, a sup­port­ive cul­ture can be cul­tiv­ated in your organ­isa­tion’s feeds.

Keeping branded social media accounts, for­ums, and com­ment sec­tions in check will require act­ive mod­er­a­tion. Active mod­er­a­tion means delet­ing, ban­ning, block­ing, unfol­low­ing, and report­ing abuse.

It’s bad form to kick someone out arbit­rar­ily. Kicking someone out for mak­ing your brand uncom­fort­able is a recipe for PR backlash.

All brands must, there­fore, estab­lish online house rules.
(Also known as social media policy state­ments.)

Still, estab­lish­ing online house rules is easy. You need only one short and pos­it­ive state­ment to cla­ri­fy when, how, and why some user-gen­er­ated con­tent will be removed.

House Rule Examples

Here are a few short, encour­aging, and pos­it­ive state­ments for dif­fer­ent types of brands:

  • Coffee shop: “Join our cosy corner of cof­fee lov­ers. Share your love for great brews and friendly chats. Let’s keep it warm and wel­com­ing for everyone.”
  • Fitness centre: “Welcome to our fit­ness fam­ily. Cheer each oth­er on and share your pro­gress. Together, we cre­ate a sup­port­ive and motiv­at­ing community.”
  • Fashion retail­er: “Fashion is fun and express­ive! Share your style, inspire oth­ers, and let’s keep our space styl­ish and kind for all fashionistas.”
  • Tech com­pany: “Innovate, share, and learn with us! Our tech com­munity thrives on pos­it­iv­ity and respect. Let’s build some­thing great together.”
  • Travel agency: “Embark on jour­neys with fel­low trav­el­lers! Share your adven­tures and tips. Let’s keep our travel tales inspir­ing and respectful.” 
  • Bookstore: “Dive into a world of stor­ies! Share your favour­ite reads and dis­cuss them with fel­low book lov­ers. Let’s keep our book­ish com­munity open and friendly.”
  • Pet sup­plies store: “A place for pet lov­ers! Share your furry friends’ stor­ies and tips. Let’s keep it paws­it­ive and sup­port­ive for all pet parents.”
  • Organic food brand: “Healthy liv­ing starts here! Share your organ­ic recipes and well­ness tips. Let’s cul­tiv­ate a nur­tur­ing and pos­it­ive space.”
  • Gaming com­pany: “Game on! Share your scores, tips, and game stor­ies. Let’s keep our gam­ing com­munity fun and inclus­ive for all players.”
  • Beauty brand: “Celebrate beauty in all forms! Share your beauty tips and exper­i­ences. Let’s make our beauty com­munity kind and empowering.”
  • Automotive brand: “Drive your pas­sion for cars! Share your rides and auto­mot­ive tips. Let’s keep our auto­mot­ive com­munity respect­ful and enthusiastic.”
  • Music store: “Rock on! Share your favour­ite tunes and music stor­ies. Let’s keep our music­al com­munity har­mo­ni­ous and supportive.” 
  • Sports brand: “Fuel your pas­sion for sports! Share your achieve­ments and tips. Let’s keep our sports com­munity encour­aging and spirited.”
  • Home décor brand: “Create your dream space! Share your décor ideas and inspir­a­tions. Let’s keep our home décor com­munity cosy and inspiring.”
  • Outdoor gear store: “Explore the great out­doors. Share your adven­tures and gear tips. Let’s keep our out­door com­munity adven­tur­ous and respectful.”
  • Education plat­form: “Learn and grow with us! Share your know­ledge and study tips. Let’s keep our learn­ing com­munity pos­it­ive and collaborative.”
  • Green energy com­pany: “Power a green­er future. Share your eco-friendly tips and exper­i­ences. Let’s keep our green energy com­munity sus­tain­able and inspiring.”
  • Art sup­ply store: “Create your mas­ter­piece. Share your art and cre­at­ive tips. Let’s keep our art com­munity vibrant and encouraging.”
  • Health and well­ness brand: “Embrace well­ness with us. Share your health tips and exper­i­ences. Let’s keep our well­ness com­munity sup­port­ive and uplifting.”
  • Cooking brand: “Cook up some­thing amaz­ing! Share your recipes and cook­ing tips. Let’s keep our culin­ary com­munity deli­cious and friendly.”

If it’s unclear wheth­er or not someone viol­ates your house rules, revise them and make any changes known to your brand com­munity.

Learn more: Online House Rules (Social Media Policy Statements)

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PR Resource: Types of Online Trolls

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Types of Online Trolls

There are vari­ous types of online trolls — and they behave dif­fer­ently. Depending on how and where they com­mu­nic­ate, you can find clues on how to best deal with them.

I use the fol­low­ing cat­egor­isa­tion of online trolls:

  • Online Vandals are motiv­ated by destruc­tion. They could flood your feed with troll com­ments for no reas­on oth­er than to wreak hav­oc. They are sel­dom the first to arrive but typ­ic­ally leave when it gets ‘bor­ing.’
  • Keyboard Warriors are typ­ic­ally anonym­ous or use pro­files with few fol­low­ers or friends. Their motives are often polit­ic­al, and their aggres­sion is often fueled by social exclu­sion. It’s worth not­ing that this pub­lic often does­n’t tar­get the brand but its followers.
  • Virtue Signalists often move in coördin­ated packs and will attack you on mor­al grounds. This pub­lic is eager to report your con­tent and might even tar­get employ­ees (or their friends and fam­ily) via email campaigns.
  • Bleeding Hearts will pro­claim their vic­tim­hood and blame your brand for des­troy­ing their lives. Emotions will run high, and there will be no con­ver­sa­tion. It’s worth not­ing that hear­ing this pub­lic out might aggrav­ate them even more.
  • Social Activists are sim­il­ar to Virtue Signalists. While Virtue Signalists will attack your brand to make them­selves feel bet­ter, Social Activists will look for a tan­gible brand response (often seen as a victory).
  • Bot Accounts come in many vari­et­ies, but since they should be quickly blocked and deleted, they can be cat­egor­ised as one single pub­lic account.
  • Meme Flooders often mean no harm and are just look­ing for some fun. However, a sud­den flood of memes can still spell trouble for a brand’s social feeds. This pub­lic moves in packs and typ­ic­ally does­n’t stay for long. 
  • Ambulance Chasers are a curi­ous bunch. They turn up whenev­er there’s a scan­dal because they’re look­ing for front-row seats. While they might be pass­ive, they can some­times try to add fuel to the fire for entertainment.
  • Brand Haters are typ­ic­ally per­sist­ent and tend to stay around until the brand finds a way to settle their reas­on for being angry. Brand Haters can some­times let go if they get some form of compensation.

Please note: Publics provid­ing fair cri­tique or voicing legit­im­ate con­cerns should nev­er be cat­egor­ised — or treated! — as online trolls.

Learn more: How To Deal With Online Trolls

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PR Resource: Avoid Ghost Followers

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How To Avoid Ghost Followers

Ghost fol­low­ers (inact­ive social media accounts) will des­troy your engage­ment scores and under­mine your social media reach and growth.

Here are a few rules of thumb for keep­ing clear of ghost followers:

  • Grow organ­ic­ally from the start. Having a small but highly engaged com­munity is bet­ter than attract­ing huge bulks of ghost fol­low­ers — espe­cially if you share your author­ity with them by enga­ging with them back.
  • Stay con­sist­ent in one niche. Attracting a homo­gen­ous audi­ence (in terms of what exact con­tent they typ­ic­ally will engage with) is crit­ic­al for long-term suc­cess in social media. 1Silfwer, J. (2016, May 25). The Follower Contract. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​f​o​l​l​o​w​e​r​-​c​o​n​t​r​a​ct/
  • Engage stra­tegic­ally. Who you engage with (fol­low, like, com­ment, share) will send neces­sary sig­nals to the algorithm. Ensure con­sist­ent engage­ment with the par­tic­u­lar audi­ence you want to attract.
  • Remove or unsub­scribe ghosts. When pos­sible, pro­act­ively remove inact­ive fol­low­ers by either elim­in­at­ing or unsub­scrib­ing them. Not all social net­works allow for this, but you should use this tac­tic wherever it’s applicable.

Learn more: How Ghost Followers Destroy Your Social Media Accounts

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PR Resource: The Follower Contract

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The Follower Contract

How can brands bet­ter under­stand fol­low­er engage­ment? Think of every fol­low as an invis­ible contract.

Dear Brand,

  • Yes, I’m now fol­low­ing you. Congratulations (to you).
  • I fol­lowed you based on what you’ve demon­strated in the past, so don’t be sur­prised if I stop enga­ging (or unfol­low­ing) if you do oth­er stuff.
  • You now have my per­mis­sion to provide me with the type of con­tent that first attrac­ted me to your brand.
  • I, the fol­low­er, will determ­ine any involve­ment on a future case-by-case basis.
  • My fol­low is not a ‘pay­ment’ for your past accom­plish­ments; my fol­low is an ‘advance pay­ment’ for what I expect from you in the future.
  • It would be best if you always pre­sup­posed that I’m inter­ested in myself and my friends first and then, maybe, in your brand.
  • Until we part ways, I expect you to be clear about my poten­tial involve­ment in your cause.

Best regards,
Your New Follower

Think of every single fol­low­er, fan, and sub­scriber hav­ing such an agree­ment with your brand.

Learn more: The Follower Contract

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1 Silfwer, J. (2016, May 25). The Follower Contract. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​f​o​l​l​o​w​e​r​-​c​o​n​t​r​a​ct/
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

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