12.18.2008

Corporate Social Media Policies and Guidelines

Our company is looking into developing social media guidelines for our employees. I'm on the committee that will be looking at developing this policy. I'm glad I was selected to help out with this effort because I think I bring a much different perspective to the table then the rest of the group.

As a millennial and someone who eats, sleeps, and breathes my life on the Internet, I believe in providing employees with guidelines and tips, but also trusting employees to make the right decisions -- and if they don't, then they are coached or 'dealt with'. My belief is that if you educate employees and provide them with guidelines, they won't be stupid. If you think your employees are stupid and careless, then something is wrong with your communications or your employee selection process.

I often question my online behavior and the way it reflects on me at work. For example, I always second guess myself when I blog or post pictures because I wonder if someone I work with will see it and form an unnecessary opinion about me. At the same time, I think that I'm allowed to have a personal blog with personal opinions. I never speak on behalf of my company or say my views are my company's views. But I know there are people out there who see a picture of me holding a beer (and there's probably quite a few of those mind you) and automatically think I'm this young kid who 'parties'.

If I see a picture of a co-worker online, holding a beer, maybe from a Christmas party or tailgating at a football game, I don't think anything. I just don't judge people on what they do outside of work. If a co-worker connects with me on a social network, it's a social agreement that we will not judge or 'tell on' each other. I think it's a shame when you have to 'unfriend' a co-worker because you can't trust them to not judge you. When I see a co-worker post a political view that I don't agree with, I might have a healthy debate with them, but at the end of the day it doesn't sway my opinion about them as a professional or co-worker. I actually think that getting to know my co-workers on a more personal level has enhanced our work relationships. We're all human after all -- and what's wrong with working hard and then playing hard? At the end of the day if I'm a high performer who consistently has my work done and then some, why is it wrong that I go to a Clemson game and drink some beers with my old friends and blow off all the stress of the work week? I think it's an old mindset that will slowly fade once the newer generations start populating the work force.

Don't get me wrong though. I agree there's things you shouldn't post online - some people are stupid. The whole saying of don't post something you wouldn't want your mother to see is a good guideline to go by. My mom reads my blog and looks at all my pictures I post online - she's only once sent me one picture she didn't like, and I promptly took it down. The subject line of the email was, "Future CEO?".

I also think that employers need to go ahead and accept that you cannot control employees use of social media, especially the younger generations coming in, so you might as well embrace it and educate employees on what's proper and what isn't (aka what is stupid to do online). And if an employee spends all day blogging or on Facebook, my guess is that this would show in their performance (aka the work isn't done) and it's a management issue, not an IT issue. You tell employees they can't go on Facebook at work, then they will just sit in each other's cubes and talk all day or find some other distraction. I just think forcing employees into a box with technology is such an 'old school' way of thinking.

Anyways, I did some research online looking for examples of guidelines and policies. Everything I found was scattered across the Web, so I've compiled a list here to help others who are researching for benchmarking purposes as well.

Social Media & Blogging Guidelines Examples on the Web

IBM: http://www.ibm.com/blogs/zz/en/guidelines.html

Intel: http://www.intel.com/sites/sitewide/en_US/social-media.htm

Sun: http://www.sun.com/communities/guidelines.jsp

Cisco: http://blogs.cisco.com/news/comments/ciscos_internet_postings_policy/

Harvard Law School: http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/terms-of-use/

DePaul: http://brandresources.depaul.edu/vendor_guidelines/g_socialmedia.aspx

Easter Seals (scroll down a bit): http://beth.typepad.com/beths_blog/2008/04/nonprofit-blogg.html

Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR): http://www.cipr.co.uk/socialmedia/

Update: My manager created a handy comparison table that we used when planning our guidelines. You can find my recent blog post about it here.

Interesting blog articles on developing corporate guidelines for social media:

Does Your Company Have a Blogging Policy? - Shares thoughts on the question, "Do employers have authority in dictating what an employee blogs about on a personal blog, given the company’s name is never mentioned?”

Social Media Policy: Does your Company need one?

About.com: Human Resources: Social Media Policy Example

The Variance of Corporate Social Media Policies – interesting look at the differing views of social media by generation

Comcast's Actual Social Media Policy No One Knew About – discussion about Comcast’s open policies on social media, includes video interview

The U.S. Air Force: Armed with Social Media
- webinknow.com blog post talking about the U.S. Air Force's social media policies and strategies, includes a great blog assessment chart; thanks to Dana who left me a comment with a link to this blog

Social Networking Policies - Balancing Collective Wisdom With Individual Stupidity - Blog post on intranetexperience.com by Sean R. Nicholson which mirrors my mindset about how some companies tend to overreact to social media use. Great explanation of finding a balance that will make companies and employees happy. (P.S. I get a shout out!)

Update (04/22/09): Nathan Gilliatt created a Delicious page for social media policy related links. I found this because this blog post is in his list. Great resource of additional helpful links.

Update (04/28/09): Mashable's article "Should Your Company Have a Social Media Policy?" - The five W's to adopting a social media policy.

Update (06/08/09): Mashable's article "10 Must-Haves for Your Social Media Policy" - What every social media policy should contain. Great article for those just getting started.


So, do you have social media guidelines at your company? What is your opinion of how a company should set policies on social media use? Does it frustrate you that you have to second guess your actions on Facebook, etc. because your employer is 'watching'?

5 comments:

kwades said...

Well Spoken!

The Tyler Hayes said...

Agreed, very nice job Christy! You're so succinct in expressing what pretty much all of we millenials do think :)

Spot onm!

Michael E. Rubin, Blog Council said...

Christy,

You might also be interested in the Blog Council Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit. This is a DIY, open source training tool designed to help educate the hundreds or thousands of employees in any large corporation the appropriate ways to interact with the social media community.

Several of the companies that you've listed in your post helped put these checklists together as members of the Blog Council.

Get it here:
http://blogcouncil.org/disclosure

Cheers,
Michael

----
312-932-9000 / michael@blogcouncil.org / twitter: merubin
I am a Blog Council employee and this is my personal opinion.

Mark Morrell said...

Christy,

BT has guidelines for social media use which treats people as adults. We've integrated blogs, wikis, podcasts, etc. into mainstream intranet use. Everyone in BT is now a user and publisher of content if they want to be!

If you want further details you can check postings on my blog http://markmorrell.wordpress.com/ and Richard Dennison http://richarddennison.wordpress.com/ who knows a lot about this too.

Mark

dtheus said...

Christy:

Awesome post. I've started some research in this area for a current client and this definitely puts me a step ahead. I appreciate the links very much. This might be an article you want to include on your list, it's a mini case study by WebInkNow about the US Air Force's strategy in this area (http://www.webinknow.com/2008/12/the-us-air-force-armed-with-social-media.html).

Thanks again for the head start!

Dana