Three basics for social media policies

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Shocked and surprised boy on the internet with laptop computer concept for amazement, astonishment, making a mistake, stunned and speechless or seeing something he shouldn't see


A couple of weekends ago I saw a “Bristow” cartoon in the Sydney Morning Herald where Bristow was having a go at a fellow worker for using a chatroom at work.

Bristow told the other employee to put himself in the company’s shoes.  To which his workmate replied “What are you, some kind of weirdo?”

It reminded me of the importance of workable social media policies – and not just what goes on when employees are supposed to be working.

Indeed it’s a salutary reminder to all organisations once employees are on social media – it’s all about them, not their employer, fellow employees or anyone else.

The recent furore over Israel Folau’s “burn in hell” tweets, and Rugby Australia’s efforts to contain the damage to its brand, is a good example. You only have to look at the constant social media enhanced revelations on sports pages to see the way this “it’s all about me” attitude is played out in social media. And it is why Social Media Policies are essential for all organisations – especially those with active communications strategies, whether or not these strategies incorporate social media platforms.

Expanding reach

Having employees use their Twitter and LinkedIn accounts to expand the reach of a company can be very useful in a social media program.  Usually it should be encouraged, but with certain constraints.

There has to be some “Dos and Don’ts” in place, for instance to avoid personal views being aired as a corporate view – or to announce information that scoops the company’s own announcement timetable.  Likewise, it also needs to contain some guidelines on what the company expects from employees when they use social media.

Organisations own their news

We have previously highlighted the sort of problem that can occur in business communications, citing the case of an executive who updated his LinkedIn profile as soon as he heard he had the new job, oblivious to the fact that his new employer didn’t want to publicise the appointment yet.

It was all about him.  He wasn’t thinking about the new employer and its responsibilities in letting others know about the move, he just wanted to tell his network.

The communication approach the company had developed to tell staff, major customers, the trade media and others in a carefully constructed timeline, all came undone, leaving the communications team scrambling to see what they could salvage.

Don’t criticise

Thoughtless criticism of the company (especially if you have a journalist as a follower) is another example that is never going to be helpful – to the company itself or the employee’s own career prospects.

A good social media policy starts at the very beginning with terms of employment and should also include workplace expectations and responsibilities.

And in workplaces such as Bristow’s, it could even include rules on the use of social networks during working hours!