What is Social Media Policy and why do you need it?


With the arrival of new media, there have also been changes in communication. The news is published in real-time, users want to get information instantly, a crisis can occur at any time, any place. All these changes affected companies, organizations, and government institutions. Since online media is accessible to everybody, organizations, with the help of their staff; had to make rules to protect themselves and add value to the company. One of the answers to these changes is Social Media Policy.

Social Media Policy can be looked at as guidelines, that companies/governments/organizations put out for their employees, giving them a structure on how to behave on the Internet. A need for Social Media Policy appeared with the arrival of new media, which in a way represents a threat and a PR disaster that can happen at any time, with decisions that have to be made in real-time. This problem is especially noted with large corporations that are not decentralized enough, and it takes them much more time to make a decision.  A large number of them opted to ban online communication because they don’t understand it. There is a fear that some of the employees might give out confidential information or waste time online, which may cause problems and decrease productivity. Of course, the solution is not banning but setting guidelines for online communication, which you need to set up in cooperation with your employees. With the same guidelines, you also can achieve more and add more value to the company.

How people got fired because of blogs, Twitter and YouTube?

Incidents triggered a lot of companies to start using social media in their work, use guidelines for online communicating and to be on top of things when it comes to people talking about them. You can find a big number of ”incidents” that happened to companies, governments, and organizations. As an example, we are going to use a blogger that wrote a blog with pornographic content and describe what happened in Domino’s Pizza case. The blogger got fired because of the content as the people in charge thought it was inappropriate. The CEO said that the organization can’t be connected to anybody who displays such content. More about the case you can find out in the article Surprised Employer Fires Sex Blogger.

The other example is Disgusting Domino’s People, a situation when two employees of Domino’s Pizza played a joke with the preparation of food in the restaurant and made a video about it. They got fired instantly for putting company reputation on the line, with over a million people watching their video. Sometimes these situations can’t be avoided, but you need to have a team that’s going to respond quickly to problems like these. On the other hand, the question is were they aware of the consequences and repercussions for the company with what they did? Surely a big problem occurred because of the lack of online communication by the Domino’s Pizza as well, who did not deal with the situation on time. What exactly happened you can see in the video below.

The CEO later made a video to try to fix the situation:

Domino’s Pizza learned the hard way, but they did rise again with the help of social media.

How do IBM, USAF and the New Zealand government do it?

IBM called its guidelines Social Computing Guidelines. They contain notes on how to present themselves on social media, how to obey copyright laws, internal privacy laws and how to add value. The key guideline in IBM’s document is that every employee always talks in the first person. It’s important that employees always address what they are working on in the first person, rather than in the name of the company because it’s a personal statement, not company’s. This document was produced by bloggers, community managers, and PR department, and it’s very important for their 400.000 employees. As you can see IBM didn’t ban online communications, they just defined the rules and boundaries that must be followed.  Can you even imagine what a disaster would happen if some confidential information leaked out? IBM’s success was that they managed to win over their legal department, HR department, and their employees to start using these guidelines. You can see IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines on this link.

United States Air Force (USAF) has a document called New Media and the Air Force. From the USAF’s document we can see this interesting graphic:

USAF Social Media Guidelines

Especially interesting to see are the guidelines called Web standards of the New Zealand government. They contain detailed descriptions of certain online activities and their pros and cons. We definitely recommend looking into this document as well. Guidelines for online communications are now part of many companies, governments, colleges, NGOs…

Social media policy is for “big” and “small” players!

Social Media policies