A blog post

Beware of social media policies that choke your business

Posted on the 18 September, 2011 at 9:55 pm Written by in Social Media

Beware of social media “policide” – policies that choke your business In my previous posts, I have mentioned the importance of developing a social media policy for your company. Policy development is not, or at least should not be, a cut and paste effort. A policy and procedure should be a living document that adds value. It should facilitate understanding among staff of company principles and how these principles will be applied. In short they must contribute to operational success. It has sadly been my experience in the 10 years that I have been auditing and drafting policies and procedures, that many companies have elaborate and verbose policies and procedures pages and pages long, which say little, confuse a lot and hinder operations rather than facilitate them. It is also usually these very companies that complain that the “law” makes running a business so difficult! It’s not the law it’s the policies and procedures! I continually advocate the importance of the K.I.S principle in employment matters. A principle which has served me well in my career- Keep – It - Simple! Until fairly recently I would have omitted to state what I thought is common, common sense (but it obviously is not in certain organisations) substance/content trumps form/formatting! It would seem that to certain employers content is less important than format. Sadly, I’m not joking either. Finally I wish to draw my comments above into the drafting of a social media policy. One size does not fit all. Copying and pasting a Social Media policy off a website is not advisable. There is only one perfect policy for your company. The one which is tailored to address the unique needs and environment in which the business operates. For example, the financial and pharmaceutical industries are highly regulated and the social media policies in these sectors are likely to be far more stringent. Below, three starting considerations to keep in mind when drafting the company’s social media policy. 1.  What will the company’s overall approach to the use of social media in the workplace be? There are essentially three options:
  • Employee use of all social networking platforms is banned during working hours;
  • Employees may use social networking platforms within reason during working hours; or
  • Employees have unlimited access to social networking platforms.
An outright prohibition on the use of social media is not recommended. Firstly, Social Media has many benefits to offer in any workplace if properly managed. Employees will also generally be able to access these sites using their cell phones making an outright prohibition difficult, if not impossible, to enforce and monitor. A blanket prohibition may also drive employees to do their networking in the toilets. This would result in a greater loss of productivity than would be the case had reasonable access been allowed. Lastly outright prohibitions sow the seeds for poor workplace relationships. The company’s policy should encourage employees to become “brand ambassadors” rather than encouraging subversive brand slagging. Look at the attached post for ideas on ways to encourage employees to become “brand ambassadors” - 7 Ways to Turn Employees into Brand Ambassadors | Social Media Today 2.     What stance will the company take with regard to  Supervisors/Managers and Subordinates “friending” or  “linking”?  Options here include:
  • Employees are prohibited from friending or connecting with other employees of the company regardless of their title and position;
  • Managers may not link or friend subordinates;
  • Subordinates may not link or friend managers;
  • Managers and subordinates may not link or friend each other; or
  • Anything goes
This is an important consideration in limiting the potential risk of harassment, discrimination, victimisation and invasion of privacy claims to name but a few. ‘Recommendations” in the Linked-In environment can also pose a challenge in this context. A subordinate may, for example, request their supervisor to provide a recommendation.  The supervisor may, for whatever reason, oblige with a sterling recommendation. Now let’s assume that a few months later the same employee is dismissed for poor performance. Guaranteed the recommendation is used as damning evidence against the company! 3.     Privacy. There are at least two important aspects to privacy      that need to be addressed in the social media policy. Firstly, Employees must be made aware of what information is  considered by the company to be private and confidential. For  example trade secrets and other proprietary information.  Secondly employees must be informed that they should have  no expectation of privacy when using social media sites.   Statistics show that there is a disparity between what   employees regard as private and what employers regard as  private. Social networking by its very nature is not private. Even where employees claim to have used uber privacy       settings on their social networking sites, there is still no  guarantee of privacy. In International jurisdictions the  message from the courts is clear- employees cannot act to the detriment of the employer and then hide behind a  claim of social media immunity. More on this subject in  another post! In concluding this post I would like to ask for your assistance in collecting data, relevant to the South African workplace, to share with other interested parties.  Please let me know if your company has a social media policy and if so, what the policy stance is on the issues raised above. I look forward to hearing from you.

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