Are Corporate Social Media Policies Necessary?

Violating social media policies can land you in the social slammer.

Should companies abandon efforts to restrict/prohibit/control their employees use of social media?

Most companies probably shudder at the thought of a completely hands off policy.  There are lots of risks not telling employees what they should and shouldn’t share on social networks.

But in many ways the dike has been washed away and no amount of finger sticking is going to stem the flood waters.  People have flocked to social media – from Facebook to Foursquare – and requiring them to adhere to company policies, procedures and regulations 24/7 is a nearly impossible task – and may not even be legal (see the link below).

This is sticky ground.  Because people are only “employees” part of the time.  And social media is ALL the time.

And let’s face it being an employee – even a great one – means grousing or complaining on occasion.  It means telling friends and family about what you do, how you do it and who you do it with. People just aren’t built with firewalls.

Everyone has a bad day.  Everyone gets into conflicts with co-workers and bosses.  And this reality will come out on personal social networks – whether they be in real-life or on Facebook.

Social networks are extensions of our FULL selves, not just our professional ones.  How is it possible to be a regular human being – with all our flaws, prejudices and inconsistencies – and not stumble at some point and violate a work policy about what you can or cannot post on your own networks?

And does a company want to even get involved in that type of messiness?

Talk politics and you’re bound to offend a co-worker.  Discuss work at all and you may you violate a company policy.  Even liking certain TV shows or books could offend someone.  Heck, check in at a customer location and you risk revealing a customer or a prospect to competitors.  Blog about an issue or a trend and you may accidentally take a stand that is at odds with a client or customer.

So here’s the question: Should progressive corporations just let people be people and not try to monitor their behavior (or their content) on social networks?

I go back and forth on this one, but would love to hear from others.


Can Companies Legally Restrict Employee Use of Social Media

Photo by PGBailey (via Flickr)

3 Responses to “Are Corporate Social Media Policies Necessary?”

  1. Hi George,

    Coming from the corporate side of PR this is a very sensitive issue, especially when you work in a hyperregulated industry like financial services or biotech and every bit of communication is subject to review from FINRA, the SEC or a similar entity.

    IBM has an excellent policy regarding this, and I’ve used some iteration of this in several places where I’ve worked:

  2. Hi David:
    Highly regulated industries are in a pickle. They have to be very careful about what they post on their official channels. The real challenge is their employees posting on their personal channels.

    This issue is going to come to a head sooner rather than later and it will be fascinating to see how the legal system works through it.

    Thanks for sharing IBM’s guidelines. I hadn’t seen those before.


  1. Top 36 Items to include in Government Social Media policies « idisaster 2.0 - March 30, 2011

    […] George F. Snell III: Are Corporate Social Media Policies Necessary? ( […]

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