PoliciesIn several client meetings this past year, the conversation often centered on the need for a social media policy—what the organization was going to give its employees access to, what personal accounts/social networking sites were permitted, and what the employees could or could not do, say, or be online. Whether you work for a progressive organization or a conservative, risk-averse one, it seems that everyone has an opinion on the best approach. Here are four prevailing camps:

Ostrich Look-Alikes

‘‘I’m on Facebook to keep up with my teenage daughter; it has no relevance to our business, and it’s going to go away soon enough. Besides, bandwidth, viruses, and time-wasting are all good reasons for us to block complete access to any and all of it from our company.’’ Seriously? You don’t think employees are getting online with their smart phones or personal laptops, or around the corner at the coffee shop? Here is one of my favorites: A local, well-recognized brand that promotes on Facebook a payment application it developed that blocks access to Facebook for its employees!

If you are locking it down because you don’t want your employees to participate and adversely affect your brand marketing, you’re right to do so. It is working, but probably not in the manner you intend. Your biggest competitor may allow its employees to engage with the market using social media, thereby lowering its cost of customer acquisition and retention in the process.

Generic Find and Replacers

‘‘Just give me someone else’s social media policy, and I’ll replace their company name with mine.’’ How’s that working for you on human resources (HR) forms, supplier contracts, and other documents that clearly define your unique organization, culture, and relationships critical to your success? If you search online, you can actually find a web site that has 120+ different social media policies from a broad array of organizations to choose from.

Bureaucratic Wordsmithers

‘‘We need to wordsmith this document as it is part of our policy.’’ The only thing I think about when I hear this one is the mid-1990s version of the company mission statement, where it took the entire organization countless 12-hour debates in 15 conference rooms over a six month time frame to replace ‘‘a’’ with ‘‘the’’! Power doesn’t corrupt—powerlessness corrupts! Focus on a plain English version that succinctly captures intent and direction, and work with social media law experts to legalize it.

Agile Landscapers

‘‘We understand that social media opens a whole new can of worms for our organization. We really need a strategic approach to developing our social media engagement program, as the very ‘squishy’ nature of social engagement lends itself to potential judgment calls on behalf of our organization.’’ These leaders are really smart, because they get that the 20-somethings (and, yes, even sometimes the 30-somethings) in the organization need to understand that personal actions online reflect on the corporate image. What you say and do online will either enhance or dilute your reputation and thus people’s perception of you!

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