Dow Jones Social Media Rules Make a Lot of Sense

In the few weeks or so since their release, I’ve failed to see what about the guidelines for online activities by Dow Jones is provoking such a strong reaction from social media types. While I might not agree 100% with with all of them I don’t see anything that goes beyond the primary online activity rule of “Don’t do anything stupid.”

  • Don’t use a false name when acting on behalf of Dow Jones: That’s just common sense.
  • Base comments on facts and don’t get into partisan political arguments: This makes sense in the same way that employees of any company shouldn’t go around making ridiculous statements about competitors or do anything that’s going to impact the operations of their employers.
  • Don’t recruit friends to promote your work: So basically don’t send “Please re-tweet!” emails to your family. That doesn’t mean people can’t do so of their own volition, just that you shouldn’t raise up an army.
  • Be careful when connecting on social networks with contacts and sources: Again, that’s just common sense. If you’re using someone as an anonymous source but you’ve “friended” that person on Facebook, it’s not hard for third parties to draw the line between the two, defeating the point of them being anonymous.
  • Don’t detail the creation process of an article: This one I’ll actually take issue with. I think, as long as it’s not breaking any journalistic ethical codes, it can be informative to see just how an investigative piece was put together. This goes hand-in-hand with the idea of using the web to publish the full transcript of an article that was excerpted for the article.
  • Don’t disparage the work of competitors: Pretty much common sense.
  • Don’t aggressively promote your own work: Again I’ll take issue with this one. Writers should be the biggest promoters of their own work, publishing it to Twitter, contacting bloggers who cover a similar topic and engaging in other such activities to bring a bigger audience to the piece. As long as it’s done in an above-board manner that doesn’t violate any of the other guidelines above, go for it.
  • Don’t engage in impolite dialogue with critics: In blog-speak this is known as “don’t feed the trolls.”
  • Avoid giving highly-specific advice to site visitors: So don’t specifically recommend a service or anything else. Makes sense.
  • Clear potentially controversial posts with editors: Basically this is an extension of clearing anything else with an editor. Not a big deal.
  • Business and pleasure should not be mixed on Twitter: I’ll disagree with this one as well. Writers should be building up their personal brand through a combination of promoting their professional work and connecting with people around other shared interests. If I get to know a writer on Twitter and can have a casual conversation with them in addition to a professional one I’m more likely to promote their work myself, something that’s good for everyone.

The few points of disagreement I have with the rules are more because I think they are the ones that hamstring unfairly the promotion of the content online. I don’t think any of them violate any sort of social media best practices or increase the secrecy of the media process. I just think they get in the way of writers being able to promote their works to the audience. Those sort of rules and guidelines don’t make sense to me simply because that’s how content is being found on sites like Twitter and other social networks. That sort of content needs to be part of the stream of updates in order to reach the social networking audience.

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