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
Harvard Law School: http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/terms-of-use/
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'?
After a While
After a while you learn
the subtle difference between
holding a hand and chaining a soul
and you learn
that love doesn't mean leaning
and company doesn't always mean security.
And you begin to learn
that kisses aren't contracts
and presents aren't promises
and you begin to accept your defeats
with your head up and your eyes ahead
with the grace of woman, not the grief of a child
and you learn
to build all your roads on today
because tomorrow's ground is
too uncertain for plans
and futures have a way of falling down
After a while you learn
that even sunshine burns
if you get too much
so you plant your own garden
and decorate your own soul
instead of waiting for someone
to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure
you really are strong
you really do have worth
and you learn
and you learn
with every goodbye, you learn...
© 1971 Veronica A. Shoffstall