Posts Tagged ‘intellectual policy’

Social Media Policies Are Not So Simple

March 17th, 2010

Hot topic of late is the need for social media policies. I have heard it from CMOs, CIOs, and even CEOs. VPs of HR are definitely there along with Legal. I think that there are really four camps in terms of approach…

Camp 1 -Just give me someone else’s that I can find/replace their company name with mine. For you who want to use this approach, I recommend going to which currently as of this posting has 119 different organizations to choose from. Kinda like taking someone else’s marketing and inserting your own name, but expediency does have its virtue, I get it…

Camp 2 - We need to wordsmith this document as it is part of our policies. Bureaucracy has its place. from my perspective, this is kinda like the “Mission Statements” of the 90′s. Everyone had to have one. You would lock your whole team in a room for 6 hours debating the nuances of the words; and or maybe…. then they would have you memorize it like the greek alphabet during pledging.

I had a guy at my last company suggest that we needed a retreat to discuss our mission statement. The rest of us almost chucked him out the 28th floor office. My suggestion is focus on the intent and let legal wordsmith it. You pay your corporate attorney a lot of money to protect you, let them. There are actually now whole legal practices springing up to focus on social media law. If you are that worried about it, then I suggest you engage an expert once you have a direction.

Camp 3- Those of us who realize that is opens a whole new can of worms for our organizations. We need a strategic approach to developing our social media engagement programs because of the very “squishy” nature of social engagement lends itself to potential judgement calls on behalf of our organizations. Not saying that 20 something’s are not responsible, but how many beer drinking and partial nudity facebook pages do you have to go through before you start thinking that maybe this isn’t the corporate image of trust and responsibility that we want to project to our customers to reassure them that their money is well spent. Could just be me…

I have framed 10 questions to open the dialogue for your organization:

1. What level of Corporate Transparency do we want to have? It is a spectrum and you need to figure how open do you really want to be. It ain’t a democracy, but the world is changing so worth thinking about.

2. What is our definition of Intellectual Property? Your corporate IP is a corporate asset; think copyrights, patents, trademarks; but also corporate proprietary information, customer information, etc. How do you define what is yours, your employees, your partners, your customers, and what do you share with the market?

3. What is the customer’s level of expectations around the customer experience? Do they expect to be engaged? Do they expect real time feedback and response? Do they expect your people to be empowered to participate in social engagement? Knowing how much will also drive the organization’s view of how you should participate.

4. What is our employee’s level of expectation around employee engagement? Do they expect a wide open policy for everyone? Is there industry regulations regarding participation? How is management participating?

5. Is there internal vehicles to vent for employees? Are you giving them an outlet for voicing feedback? How is morale? Most I hate… sites are actually from ex-employees. Did you just go through a round of lay-offs? You may want to think about how your employee base will react.

6. How do you describe our corporate culture? Do you have a clear idea of your culture? Do your employees? It will come out so be prepared. If your management team is more paranoid than North Korea, well, don’t expect to see a rosy picture put forth to potential customers. Corporate culture is one area that definitely shows up on social media. Good cultures show through, bad cultures also…

7. What is the line between personal and professional? If an employee posts information on our company on their page, who owns the content? Can we influence what someone posts in their spare time about themselves? Short answer is that if they put out to the world that they are an employee of the company, then they are responsible to the company to protect the brand image.

8. What do we want the world to know about us as a company? Our employees are ambassadors for our company, for good or bad. For many prospective buyers, there first point of introduction may be through the social interactions of an employee; whether professional or personal. If we don’t have a clear message, what do you think will happen in the market?

9. What are our expectations around professionalism for our employees? If you have a dress code, code of conduct, etc. then it would be logical to have a more restrictive code of social media conduct. If you have a more loose expectation around how employees are expected to engage, then you probably don’t expect to have a corporate image projected from your employees.

10. Who owns the relationship /account?If your junior account team person connects to one of your customer employees, what happens when that employee leaves your employ? Who owns the customer when a sales rep leaves who is directly connected to the customer on linkedin? How about when they have build their pipeline over social media? What happens when your customer service people build a following on twitter over a personal/ named account? What if your employee starts an account on behalf of the company?

Tough questions, but also leads to..

Camp 4- The Ostrich effect is alive and well within corporate America. How many IT groups really think they have really locked down the network from social media? I have heard bandwidth, viruses, time wasting, etc. As Dan Webber, who is a CIO, put it as he whips out his smart phone…. “Do you think I can’t use this?” Also, just because they can’t use it on your network, doesn’t mean that they can’t use it at coffee shops around the corner, at home, or even at the airport.

If you are locking it down because you don’t want your employees to participate because you are worried about the effect on your brand marketing; you are right. It is working…. but probably not like you intended when your biggest competitor is allowing their employees to engage with the market and is using social media to lower their cost of customer acquisition.