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Mon, Mar 14, 2011

Talent Strategies

Social Media Policies and Company Culture

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“Policies aren’t the sexiest topic out there,” conceded Ellen Reynolds of the Dachis Group, and of course, when compared to the litany of big-name keynoters, brand name companies and bountiful swag in the 2011 South by Southwest Interactive line-up, she’s right.  But, as Reynolds explained during her presentation on “Social Media Policies and Company Culture,” policies are the foundation, and framework, of social organizations.

Reynolds identified four key areas every social media policy should cover:

1. Responsibility: Reynolds stressed that policies are the vehicle by which an organization outlines the risks, and rewards, of employee social media usage.  “It really boils down to personal accountability,” Reynolds said.

2. Accountability: Any policy should reference what is and what isn’t acceptable to share online.  ‘Firing for Facebook’ and other related incidents aren’t as common as they used to be, Reynolds suggested, but with social media’s increasing ubiquity in the everyday lives of, well, almost everyone, people are increasingly going online to express their feelings.

Since it’s inevitable that some (if not many) of those feelings will deal with work, it’s up to the company to provide clear direction and establish expectations for employees to know “what’s appropriate, and when it crosses the line,” Reynolds said.

3. Respect: You have to respect your audience, their intelligence and their motivations, Reynolds cited the example of Nestle, whose “disrespectful” response on Facebook to Greenpeace regarding their environmental record ignited an overnight backlash against Nestle that was ultimately far more damaging for their brand then the original allegations.

4. Oversight: Employers must explain when, and why, a company would need to get involved in an employees’ personal social media activity.  Reynolds cited used ESPN as an example; their social media policy prohibits employees from talking about sports while engaging on social media due to the high possibility of possible brand and messaging confusion.

Reynolds cautioned against companies using a “cut and paste” approach to their social media policies, as these policies should reflect, and recognize, companies’ unique culture.  “After all,” Reynolds said, “a social media policy is an element of your culture.”

Finally, Reynolds stressed that employee social media policies should have the flexibility to change and adapt over time to reflect the ever changing, dynamic social media landscape.

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