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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Social Media and the Corporate Line

Social media is so prevalent in the workplace that users often underestimate the business impact of their social media profiles and communications. A single post has the ability to harm an organization's brand reputation. On a personal professional level, we know that prospective employers search sites for posts, as well as looking for passive posts such as when individuals are "tagged" in photos.

Corporate social media policies are increasingly common. According to a recent Inc. article boilerplate confidentiality agreements with employees and executives may not be enough protection in today’s 24/7/365 online and wireless world. Reporter Tiffany Black suggests that organizations write a comprehensive corporate policy specifically aimed at use of social media, and adapt the policy as new situations arise. She echoes the advice that CommCore always give our clients: proactive communications planning is better than reactive response.

The ultimate question is whether companies should regulate social media use on the job, or prevent it all together. Several of CommCore's clients want their employees to engage in social media, but the company online policies prevent employees from accessing certain sites from their work computers. Needless to say this is frustrating and to those who rely upon social media for professional peer-to-peer communications, networking, marketing, news gathering, and lead generation.

News organizations face a particular conundrum because of journalists' increasing need to troll cyberspace and engage audiences, yet maintain the appearance of objectivity. The Washington Post recently addressed the problem of social media and employee use firsthand. Mashable blogger Vadim Lavrusik posted an article detailing the newspaper's new policy to circumscribe use of Twitter. The Post's "social media problem" came to light over a month ago after reporter Mike Wise intentionally posted false information on his Twitter account to prove a point for an article. According to the Mashable article, the Post's predicament grew even more after another Post journalist inappropriately responded to a critic on a Washington Post-branded Twitter account.

Andrew Alexander, Post ombudsman and writer of the Washington Post Omblog, shared some of the new guidelines sent out to Post journalists and editors by Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli:
  • "When using these networks, nothing we do must call into question the impartiality of our news judgment."
  • "What you do on social networks should be presumed to be publicly available to anyone, even if you have created a private account."
  • "Post journalists must refrain from writing, tweeting or posting anything - including photographs or video - that could be perceived as reflecting political racial, sexist, religious or other bias or favoritism that could be used to tarnish our journalistic credibility."
Corporations, government agencies, non-profits and associations can learn a thing or two from the Post’s position:
  • While use of social media can enhance an employee's ability to succeed in his or her work, it can easily cause corporate or brand harm - even precipitate a crisis - if the user exercises poor judgment.
  • Creating a clear and transparent corporate social media policy can help prevent a problem before it occurs by educating and informing employees of the potential impact and consequences of their postings.
What social media policies have your organization put into place? How do you counsel your clients on employee access to social media?

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