Mario Sundar's Speakeasy

Spero Ventures. Early LinkedIn, Twitter. These are my thoughts on tech, brand, marketing and community.

Social Media Policy: Not too Heavy, Not too Light!

Quicker Update: Ari Herzog adds his $0.02 on this topic for the Huffington Post, debating whether companies in the survey are blocking or banning usage of social networking sites. But, as I’ve mentioned in the below post, I’d like to reiterate that the focus here should be the opportunity for companies here. Encouraging correct usage of social media for employees is a great way to build your company brand. Thoughts? Leave a comment.

Quick Update: Ben McConnell (Church of the Customer) weighs in.

FACT: “54% of employers have completely prohibited their employees from their employees visiting Facebook, Twitter or MySpace while at work” according to a recent survey of CIOs of companies across the United States (via @Mashable)

The survey, which was developed by Robert Half Technology, is consistent with other recent reports that show companies are quickly moving to block social media in the workplace. Of course, even when companies allow social media, it doesn’t always end well for employees. Another recent report indicated that 8% of companies in the US have fired staff over social media misuse.

Companies are grappling with the emergence of social media tools like Twitter that allow for a rapid dissemination of content and ideas. Now, this could be a double edged sword for any organization but as I’ve been advocating on LinkedIn’s Talent Advantage blog – this is also a great opportunity for companies to build their brand through their employees. [Disclosure: I work at LinkedIn, a professional networking site not covered on the survey, as Community Evangelist]

Poll: Employers embrace of social media

As you can see from the above breakdown, over half of the employers polled seem to have banned any use of social media in the company, while 19% allowed it only for business and 26% allowed employees to use social media sites for personal purposes as well.

For lack of a better analogy, I think a good approach would be similar to the ads titled “Parents: the Anti-Drug” that you see on TV. Surveys have shown that listening to a kid’s concerns makes them far more communicative with a parent and has proven to be more effective at reducing risky behavior. Ditto for employers and social media guidelines.

Responsible companies will take time to educate their employees on how best to utilize social media to build their brand, explain what’s at stake and help clarify how improper use of social media could inadvertently end up destroying both the employee’s professional brand and hence the company brand.

To policy or not to policy (I meant police v.)

Still wondering how best to approach this seemingly intractable problem? As I mentioned, I just published part 2 on my series on helping companies craft social media guidelines and it’s about the 5 questions you should ask yourself before you craft a social media policy for your company. Here are some tips:

1. Ask yourself: does your company need a social media policy?

2. Find your existing company evangelists

3. Find alignment with your company values and culture (read my entire post with all 5 tips for companies here)

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So, in essence, while crafting a social media policy – don’t keep it too heavy,  nor too light; don’t ban complete usage, nor allow unfettered personal access while at work. And, remember that this is a great opportunity to build your employees brand, where they could share information about their company brand with the rest of the world. And, for employees – with great power comes great responsibility.

What is your company’s social media policy? Leave a comment (after the jump) in the comments section. If you like this content, feel free to follow me on Twitter.

Filed under: Best-of, Business Blogging, Employee Engagement

6 Responses

  1. Thanks for the mention, Mario. I inadvertently left off LinkedIn from the list of social networks. Dumb mistake. I fixed the post to reflect that.


    • Mario Sundar says:

      Well, if you’re referring to the survey, you may be right. They only mentioned Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace. But, in general, LinkedIn definitely helps build out an individual’s professional brand.

      Thanks for the inclusion!


  2. I absolutely agree with Mario that companies are losing out some great opportunities if they eschew the social media or forbid their use to their employees.


  3. Social media is becoming a major role in making a site successful. great article…and yea i think LinkedIn is a great way to spread a product.


  4. I also agree with Mario that companies are being short-sighted. As long as individuals really think before they post their comments and don’t vent their work frustrations out online, they should be allowed to utilise social media for professional and personal use.
    Social media makes privacy a thing of the past, so an individual has to consider their reputation no matter where or when they use it.


  5. KA says:

    I think employers need to police use of social media sites during working hours – however, like what your title says, the policing should be “Not too Heavy, Not too Light!”

    I feel the policies should address the activities they are allowed to do on these sites, rather than access to the site. It would be detrimental to the company if employees start to get addicted over “restaurant city”, or checking twitter updates every 10 mins, but I’m sure it’s no harm if they just use it to get and make updates once a day…


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