Social Media Policy or Guideline – Which one should you have


What is the difference? Is there a difference?

Actually, the difference is fundamental to how you view social media. Do you look at social media as an opportunity to be leveraged or do you look at it as a threat to be guarded against?

Social Media as a Threat

If you view social media as a threat that you need to live with, you will primarily be concerned about the possible damage that can be caused be employee action. You will be concerned about:

  • Any confidential information getting inadvertently leaked out
  • You getting embarrassed because of an employee action
  • Any claim arising out of an employee posting
  • Employee expressing opinion which may not be in sync with the official position

You will need to focus on what the employee should not do. You will clearly identify the limits what is permissible and what is not. There will be no explicit encouragement to participate and the title of the document will contain the word “Policy“. Here are two examples:

Oracle Social Media Participation Policy
  • Follow all existing code of conducts
  • Protect Confidential Information
  • Don’t Comment on M&A Activity
  • Don’t Discuss Future Offerings
  • Refrain from Objectionable or Inflammatory Posts
  • Don’t Speak for Oracle
  • Don’t Post Anonymously
  • Respect Copyrights
  • Use Video Responsibly
  • Stick to Oracle Topics on Oracle-Sponsored Blogs
  • Don’t Misuse Oracle Resources
Cisco’s Internet Postings Policy
  • Violation of this policy may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination
  • Should not disclose any information that is confidential or proprietary
  • Include a disclaimer that the views are your own and not those of Cisco
  • You may be subject to liability if your posts are found defamatory, harassing, or in violation of any other applicable law
  • Cisco may request that you avoid certain subjects or withdraw certain posts from a Cisco Blog

Social Media as an Opportunity

On the other hand if you view social media as an opportunity then you will want to encourage your employees to participate and you will guide them on the best way to participate. You will be interested in providing the best practices like:

  • Being yourself and truthful
  • Admitting mistakes
  • Respect your audience
  • Being transparent but judicious

You will focus on what they may do. Though you may mention what to avoid, it will be written in as an advice rather than as a sword hanging over your head. Finally, the title of the document will contain the word “Guideline“. Here are two examples:

IBM Social Computing Guidelines
  • What you do on your own time is your affair
  • IBM supports open dialogue and the exchange of ideas
  • Know the IBM Business Conduct Guidelines
  • Be who you are (be transparent)
  • Be thoughtful about how you present yourself in online social networks (lines between public and private are blurred)
  • Speak in the first person
  • Use a disclaimer
  • Respect copyright and fair use laws
  • Protecting confidential and proprietary information
  • Some topics relating to IBM are sensitive and should never be discussed
  • Protect IBM’s clients, business partners and suppliers
  • Respect your audience and your coworkers
  • Add value
  • Don’t pick fights
  • Be the first to respond to your own mistakes
  • Adopt a warm, open and approachable tone
  • Use your best judgment
Intel Social Media Guidelines
  • Be transparent
  • Be judicious
  • Write what you know
  • Perception is reality (lines between public and private are blurred)
  • It’s a conversation
  • Are you adding value?
  • Your Responsibility
  • Create some excitement
  • Be a Leader
  • Did you screw up? (If you make a mistake, admit it)
  • If it gives you pause, pause (what you publish is yours – as is the responsibility – so be sure)

In Summary

Oracle, Cisco, IBM and Intel – the four examples are from companies operating on the same market space. Therefore, what you make out of social media depends on your enterprise DNA and the result can be very different from company to company.

Does it remind you about theory “X” and theory “Y”?

Update…

[June, 2012] The federal agency that settles workplace disputes has issued new guidelines on what employees can and can’t say about their bosses and their companies on social media sites. The guideline seem to favor the employees.

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