Social Media Policies

My background is in HR, but sometimes I have a hard time liking HR people. It’s bad, I know, but it just seems like every time I’m with a group of them I struggle to keep my eyes from rolling and my mouth from telling them to get their heads out of the sand.

I was recently at a state SHRM conference, in a session about using social media to promote your company, and one very lovely, traditional, head in the sand, HR woman made the following statement:

“I just wrote a policy which specifically states that employees are not allowed to use our company name or discuss our company online. Doing so can get them fired.”

My first thought, “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve heard in my entire life”. Here’s why:

  • I hate policies that are created for the sake of filling a handbook.
  • That statement is so vague that it’s going to keep employees from saying even good things about you online.
  • Some of your employees are probably engaging in intellectual, industry specific, cutting edge conversations online and with a policy like that they aren’t going to say that they work for your company. In this case, you’re missing out on a chance to tell the world that you have smart, ambitious, cutting edge employees in your company. A shame.
  • While employees who have something good to say about you won’t, those who want to bash you will do so anonymously on sites like Glassdoor.com
  • How are future employees supposed to see what it’s like in your company if the only things they can find on the internet are complaints your customers are making and things upset employees are anonymously saying on sites where they’re trashing you?
  • In my past life I actually left a company because the Corporate Communications Department was monitoring what employees were saying online and were slapping wrists even when what employees were saying was positive, relevant to industry conversations, and in no way hurting the company. Guess what, they lost a pretty damn good employee because they couldn’t handle the loss of control.

Instead of treating employees like children by writing a blanket policy to save your own butt from the one or two stupid employees who are going to write something dumb,  why don’t you educate employes on ways they can use the internet to make your company look good?

Okay, rant over.

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About Marisa

Marisa Keegan is a leadership coach, trainer, and HR consultant for quickly growing organizations who are passionate about strengthening their employees, their brand, and their culture. She has helped lead the HR, culture, and engagement initiatives at two nationally recognized great places to work; Rackspace as Culture Maven and Modea as Talent Manger. She is an author at Fistful of Talent and Culture Fanatics. Marisa has her Masters in Industrial Organizational Psychology and currently lives with her husband and twin boys in Richmond, Virginia.
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3 Responses to Social Media Policies

  1. Ben Hubbard says:

    A middle ground might be letting employees know that if they label themselves as employees of a company in their social media then they are responsible as a representative of the company, and as such, should be careful. Policies are made to protect the company, but also the employee. I think the best solution is to encourage social media, but the employers ought to provide guidelines. It may sound obvious, but some folks might post their employers as Acme Inc., and then post a picture of themselves doing drugs.

  2. Tom Eicholtz says:

    I’ve Branded myself differently for Business Social Media as opposed to truly “Social” Media. This way I keep my friend Facebook separate from my strictly business account. College photos are meant to be shared among college friends. Beer in hand and playing horseshoes while camping photos have nothing to do with what I am or what I can offer at work today, but are still fun to keep around to look back at.

    Re-branding myself for a new profession in sales also allowed me to start from scratch and control everything. From twitter, to my blog, to FB, I am more aware in 2011 of who should and should not be my friend as well as what I should and should not post. Actually, I don’t care who is my friend on FB anymore, because I am controlling the content much better than any of us did in our first days of social networking.

    My best learning experience was during a previous life as a middle school art teacher. I decided to look up the parent of one of my students before a parent teacher conference and discovered her search for a new man, recent divorce, and desire to get out there and party with a very graphic song playing in the background. All up on a Myspace page open to the public. That in itself, is why there needs to be a greater push for social media education for everyone.

    Last words: Have fun, error on the safe side and know what you are trying to accomplish every time you post something to a social networking site.

    Cheers,
    Tom

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