Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
June 21, 2010 8:44 PM

Your Social Media Policy May Not Save You

Companies continue to struggle with Social Media - especially when it comes to rules, policies and guidelines.

There are three "guidelines" that should be a part of every Social Media guidelines or policy - especially if you're a service provider:

  1. Prior to beginning your work with this organization, you signed an employee agreement that has detailed non-disclosure, privacy and intellectual property clauses. Above all else, those contractual agreements stand.
  2. We do not mention clients by names or programs unless formally agreed upon as a group to help spread the word or to share the great work.
  3. Do your best not to bash brands, companies, products and services. You never know who might become a client or when a current client shifts positions and moves to another company. Tweets like, "clients are really frustrating me today" are not cool either.

As companies have grown, changed and engaged in the many online channels, Social Media has changed and evolved as well.

There are many, many places for people to vent online (especially about our personal customer service gripes). As important of an action as that is and as empowering as it can be (and yes, even a good thing for brands to hear), it's still very important to think twice about publishing (be it to a Blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc...). Increasingly, brands are paying attention and tracking mentions of themselves and competitors. How does it look when an individual bashes a brand that either a) they represent in some capacity or another or b) when they mention that they are using a competitor's product or service?

Individuals need to be more careful and vigilant.

In a perfect world, service providers should be supporting the brands they represent. It's not a perfect world and that's not always possible, but it's important to keep in mind that if you praise one of our client's competitors, what you're really saying is that you don't use the client's products or services. If you bash a competitor of one of your clients, it can be perceived that your client encourages their service providers to bash the competitors.

The world has changed and it's complicated.

What if you're talking about a brand and it's for personal use (not something for work)? Are you beholden to the company that employs you outside of office hours? What about your loyalty to the brands you work for (regardless of when it's office hours or not)? Personally, I choose to not mention brands on the Blog, Twitter or Facebook, but lately, I have seen multiple posts in multiple spaces by people discussing brands. Sometimes it's bashing their own client's competitors. Sometimes it's about being a new customer for a client's competitors. Regardless of what we think, there are perceptions that those pieces of content can have in our ever-changing world.

How do we not repress what real people think in the real world?

Nobody wants to police their employees or come off as some kind of Social Media overlord. But, do you think that individuals really stop to consider who is seeing everything they publish, what their clients might think (whether it's true or not) and what that can mean to their relationship with their clients and their potential clients?

Where does freedom of speech conflict with better business judgment?

By Mitch Joel