Scary social media policies vs empowering employees

Posted on: May 19, 2011

A scary social media policy that seeks to prevent employees from participating online is a) probably not going to deter them and b) a missed opportunity.

It is an opportunity missed because encouraging and empowering people who work for an organisation or brand to step in and post helpfully across Twitter, Facebook, forums and other social media is an efficient means to increase positive sentiment in online conversations.

In a recent Mashable post Maria Ogneva, Head of Community at Yammer, wrote that productively helping employees reconcile their public and private social media lives involves training, ongoing mentorship, and establishing guidelines and best practices i.e. focusing on draconian control policies is not the way to go.

The very real down-side of employees actively using social media is described in this example by Lindsay Ball:

 a scenario in which unwitting employees, after checking into Foursquare during a weekend of debauchery, taints your company’s reputation by using Foursquare to check into work on Monday morning. This forever links your company to all of their online activities

But it is the absence of broad, strong, social media activity that makes such an occurrence a big deal. That is, without an active, positive, social media presence – the odd employee transgression looms large in the organisation’s online reputation.

Whereas an effective internal social media team in combination with a confident, supported wider workforce adds up to legions of eyes, ears and tapping fingers (on your side). In combination they make up the best chance an organisation has of achieving a desirable online presence in a world where everyone can have their say.

So when pointing out the don’ts of interacting online – organisations should put just as much, if not much more, energy into dos and how tos.

See also:

Images: Mr T. via the culture vulture; Social media policy from HighTechDad

3 Responses to "Scary social media policies vs empowering employees"

I completely agree. Internal education that empowers employees to use social media in a positive way is at least as important as company’s “official” voice online since there are a lot more of them than there are of you. We all need all the cheerleaders we can get!

Thanks Lindsay.. I also think companies need to get past the fact that ‘cheerleading’ comes in different tones and guises – just because an employees doesn’t participate in exactly the way they would wish doesn’t mean, in the long run, their contributions will be less valuable than those carefully crafted by communications experts..

[…] “What do you mean, ‘social media policy?’” Oh, you don’t have one? Never fear! As you are not the first and certainly not the last company to go through these growing pains there are plenty of resources out there to help you. First, think of it less as a “policy” and more like “guidelines” (think of the pirates’ code in “Pirates of the Caribbean”). You want to direct, not dictate. With that in mind, here is a repository of sample guidelines. IBM, Dell and Intuit are three companies that stand out as leaders in this field. And don’t forget these “10 Must-Haves for Your Social Media Policy.” Mariam Cook provides additional excellent resources and examples in this post. […]

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