Social media censorship – Can companies control what employees are saying about them?

I was meeting with a client recently who raised the issue of staff’s interaction on social media and whether the organisation should have a social media policy that would ‘forbid’ its staff to comment about the company on their personal social media profiles (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

Although this may sound like an appealing way to avoid any ‘damage control’ situation, it may well bring more problems then solutions…

• In this day and age, people are used to expressing their opinions and ideas and sharing information on the internet. Trying to ‘forbid’ them to do such a thing could backfire and create just the opposite, i.e. having them whinge about the company’s new rigid (to be polite) social media policy

• Unless your CEO and/or managers are ‘Facebook friends’ of every employee, it can be practically impossible to monitor what your employees are posting on their profiles

• By forbidding any comment about the organisation, you are not only stopping any derogative posts, but also all the possible praises your employees might like to share about your organisation.

Although I wouldn’t recommend such a strict social media policy, I would certainly encourage organisations to develop ‘social media guidelines’ that look at the use of social media in the workplace and educate employees on the repercussions various comments made on their personal profiles can still have on them and/or the organisation.

Personally, I believe the first step should be to speak to your employees about their involvement on social media. Ask them if they are using any of the channels. If they do, they might even have incredible ideas on how the company could benefit from engaging on social media to raise its profile among potential customers or even simply to create an ‘employee community’ through a Facebook page, for example.

I believe the key is for organisations to remain open-minded. Whether you like it or not, people are talking about your organisation online and a culture of ‘transparency and openness’ towards your main stakeholder, that is your staff, might well turn in your favour!

Have you come across organisations who have implemented a social media policy or guidelines? I’d like to hear about the benefits and shortcomings of such a policy.

@KimLarochelle

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2 Responses to Social media censorship – Can companies control what employees are saying about them?

  1. Jo says:

    You just have to look at Zappos to understand that getting your employees on board and potentailly making them part of your social media plans, can be a good thing. As long as they have guidelines to go by, you have some of the best brand advocates to promote your brand, help you spread your message and engage audiences. Although it does come down to what you want to acheive.

  2. Kim, the creation of Social Media Guidelines is part of Sympra’s Social Media product portfolio. Together with the communications guys of one of our clients we have written guidelines for them – quite comprehensive, not too strict, taylor-made for this company. This was in February 2010. Since then, the draft is being checked by the company’s legal department … Veit

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