Monday, January 26, 2009

Corporate Social Media Policies

I took a sample of the many shown here: and read through them; it is very interesting to see the differences in approach and content:

  • Some do a really good job of explaining the possibilities and reasons why employees/members of the organization would want to participate; while at the same time presenting guidelines to “keep them and the company safe”
  • Some are simply a liability control device; clearly delineate what the organization is responsible for (little) and what the individual needs to look out (lots).
    Some are simply control devices; the almost amount to “don’t do it on our dime” and “don’t speak about work, we have official channels for that”.
  • Some are created thinking about a new communication device; and either ignore or prohibit the public aspect of it completely.
Below detailed comments on the four policies I reviewed, but here my comments/recommendations:

  • All corporations/organizations should anchor their social media guidelines/policies in their business conduct guidelines; social media presents new forms of communication and relationship management but the business conduct guidelines should simply be extended and applied to this space.
  • Guidelines should do a good job of encouraging; by helping people understand the benefits this can bring to the organization they work for as well as themselves as individuals.
    Clear “limits” should be drawn; I like how HP and IBM have done it.
  • Mistakes should be assumed; expectations should be set and what will be the process to deal with those. (see HP below)
  • Unavoidable: Liability and Risk must be controlled; clear guidelines regarding Copyright, IP and Confidentiality aspects should be put forward.
What do you think?

Filiberto Selvas

Detailed comments below:
Snippet from the top:
“These guidelines aimed to provide helpful, practical advice—and also to protect both IBM bloggers and IBM itself”

  • Grounds these on IBM’s “Business Conduct Guidelines”
  • Requests employees identify themselves; while making sure they protect their privacy.
  • Recognizes the choice of their employees to participate as personal; and inherently transforming of the way IBM operates internally and externally.
  • Explicitly prohibits covert or deceiving use “IBMers should not use these media for covert marketing or public relations.”
  • Clearly draws the line: “You must not comment on confidential IBM financial information such as IBM's future business performance, business plans, or prospects anywhere in world..”

Harvard Law School:
Snippet from the top:

  • “We don’t mean to turn you off from blogging by immediately inundating you with legalese, but we need to make clear our respective rights and responsibilities related to this service.”
  • Very ‘Legal” Tone throughout (I guess it is obvious): “Rights in the Content You Submit”, “Disclaimer of Warranties and Limitation of Liability”, “”, etc.
  • Almost no mention of the opportunity, no encouragement for individuals to participate.

Department of the Navy:
Snippet from the top:
“..enhance communication, collaboration, and information exchange; streamline processes; and foster productivity improvements.

  • Like IBM Grounds them in existing Guidelines: “Commands must adhere to existing information assurance (lA) and privacy policy, guidance, and best practices.”
  • Strict “editorial” Control “content not approved for public release must be conducted on sites that are restricted to users with DoD Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) certificates and approved external PKI certificates”

Greteman Group:
Snippet from the top:
“we embrace these changes and are working to harness the technologies fueling these changes for our clients. We also embrace the powerful ability for individuals to leverage and enhance their personal brands through these tools”

  • Business Hours / Business Use: “While you are on company time, please refrain from online activities that don’t bring value to Greteman Group”
  • Editorial Control / Who is the Spokesperson for the Company? “Please note though that confidentiality agreements prevent disclosure of all client and Greteman Group business.”

Snippet from the top:
“HP blogs are written by a variety of employees at different levels and positions in the company, so you can expect many viewpoints”

  • Like IBM above grounds the guidelines in the Standards of Business Conduct.
  • Clearly draws the line “there are some topics we won't comment on such as information about financials, HP intellectual property, trade secrets, management changes, lawsuits, shareholder issues, layoffs, and contractual agreements with alliance partners, customers, and suppliers”
  • Assumes mistakes will be made; and sets proper expectations: “We will correct inaccurate or misleading postings in a timely manner. We will not delete posts unless they violate our policies. Most changes will be made by adding to posts and we will mark any additions clearly.”


Anonymous said...

Good observations on the four you covered.

I agree with you that a controlling mindset should really focus on how current business policies are impacted by the new communication channel.

I also added a new one from the New York Times having specific policies about Facebook. This is interesting as some companies are choosing to have dedicated policies on specific sites. I would believe that Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, and Linkedin all have enough of a presence to justify some specific policies rather than generalized ones.

For instance: I didn't note in any of the 15+ policies "who should be friended" on a network. I suspect we will see that being added to some policies in 6 to 12 months.suple

Anonymous said...

Thanks for including Greteman Group's policy in your list.

Rather than treat social media as a new, alien technology, we chose to frame our policy in the same way we framed the personal use of company telephones and email. In no way did we want to dictate WHAT people said, but we wanted to provide clear, fair guidelines on WHEN they say it.

The plan isn't perfect, and we're always looking to improve it. The other policies you've provided here are a great place to start.

And Barry, we provided some recommendations about social network behavior. But these aren't hard, fast rules. Do you think companies should provide specific rules who should be "friended?"

Filiberto Selvas said...

Thank you both for your comments

I don't expect ecessarily policies on whom to friend, I do expect organizations to make an effort to educate their members on the implications of “friending”

Bryan Kress said...

I really enjoyed your insight on the different policies. I am currently trying to write a policy at the moment and this post has helped give me some ideas. Thanks

Filiberto Selvas said...

You are welcome Bryan; check Intel's (recently published); I think is a good example to follow:

Filiberto Selvas said...

Here SAP Guidelines; which I consider a good example to follow: