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Your social media policy is probably wrong

February 17, 2011

I had lunch today with a Lawyer.

We talked about Social Media Policies, and other fun stuff. At the end of it, I thought about writing this post. You see, his stance is that a social media policy should be clear about what employees can’t do.

But what if we thought of a social media policy as what employees can do?

For a company, social media can make everyone in the place seem like the official spokesperson for the awesomeness of the brand. From blogging to Facebook to Twitter employees are talking up the places they work.

And that can be, and should be encouraged. Not blocked.

It’s been said in many other places, but blocking Facebook isn’t a solution to worker productivity. If people aren’t working because of Facebook, it isn’t Facebook’s fault, it’s the employee.  All that said, Facebook is the most blocked site online.

So don’t block. Instruct.

The company policy, should be the place to talk about expectations.

The company’s expectations of employees, in a positive way. We want you to do this, and do this, and do this.

The act of telling people what they can do will soften the blow when it is explained to them what they can’t do.

The reality is, people aren’t trying to make mistakes in social media. They aren’t really used to living in an Open Source world. Personal filters aren’t really working yet.

Think about the social media policy as helping them.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. February 19, 2011 9:51 am


    Thanks for writing this post based on our discussion. Just to note, we don’t fundamentally disagree on your points above. I’m not a proponent of the “block Facebook” approach to social media in the workplace. Not to say that’s always the wrong policy, but I’d encourage all organizations to think carefully about the ways “social media” (as a collection of new tools available to most at relatively low up-front cost) can add value to the business. But, on the flip side, there are, of course, legal risks (and non-legal business risks) to using social media. So organizations do need to draw some lines and communicate the parameters effectively to employees. Ideally, that probably involves telling employees both what they can and can’t (and should and shouldn’t) do. Written policies can come in all shapes and sizes and should be tailored to the organization. I would also suggest training employees on both the capabilities of the new media tools and the company’s expectations regarding their use by employees. I believe you would agree that optimum engagement requires more than distributing a written document and then walking away.

    • February 21, 2011 9:17 am

      Hey Scott, thanks for the comment. This post was half-written (I usually have 4 drafts on the go), our lunch gave me the introduction I needed.

      You wrote:
      “I believe you would agree that optimum engagement requires more than distributing a written document and then walking away.”

      Indeed. We offer how-to courses. How to use Linkedin. How to use Facebook. Etc. And if a company is going to learn what to do, it is best to understand what they can’t do.

      It is surprising how many companies haven’t really thought this through. Since Facebook is the most blocked site in America, it leads one to believe that most companies are just putting it off.

      Thanks again for the comment.

  2. February 21, 2011 3:30 pm

    Hello Matt,

    A social media policy should always address more than the don’ts. Many companies, provide their employees with the don’ts and their consequences, but rarely provide them with instructions on the do’s. This method is what I call “Reactive polices”. Reactive policies are put in place after a problem has occurred. For a social media policy to implemented correctly, employees should been giving instructions and examples on what they can do, and how they should go about the process. This is also referred to as “Proactive policies.” They work better than the reactive ones.

    • February 22, 2011 9:55 am

      Hi Ophelia,

      I totally agree. And yet, Facebook is the most-blocked website in the US.

      Reactive much?


  3. February 27, 2011 4:42 pm

    Off the subject a little… I recently heard about a company wanting to sue twitter about defamation of their company name on twitter… What do you think about that?

    • February 28, 2011 9:37 am

      My guess is you can’t. British Petroleum couldn’t even shut down BPGlobalPR, and that seriously defamed the company as well as the CEO.

      If somebody is defaming a company using Twitter, I think the company should look at the underlying cause and deal with it in a better way than sue. Simple reality is, suing will make it more public.

      There have been instances whereby companies sued people for bad reviews on review sites like Yelp. The most famous was a Chiropractor who sued for a bad review (see my post:

      I think this is the wrong strategy. A better one is to engage with the people and find out the underlying cause. If they are the competition, then publicize that. If they have a legitimate beef, then figure out how to fix it because chances are good, someone else will be back with the same compliant.


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