Don’t block access to social media. Invest in a good policy instead.

27 January 2010

By Amanda Brewer, ABC

I presented yesterday to the Conference Board of Canada’s Council of Public Affairs Executives as part of a panel discussion on effective internal communications. My part focused on internal communications in the era of the wired worker and asked – how equipped are your employees to be guardians of your brand?

It is always interesting to learn how few companies actually have social media policies or guidelines in place, and how many continue to debate the range of access to social media tools or networking websites. Those conversations are always lively and illustrative because, as I pointed out, it doesn’t matter if your company is blocking access to facebook or personal email accounts. If employees have cell phones (and who doesn’t these days?), then facebook is accessible on just about every enabled phone, as is twitter and the internet. Phones have cameras and video-recording capacities, and with a quick link to youtube, anything can be uploaded and distributed in a matter of minutes.

The point being, that even if companies aren’t providing access to social media, employees have their own networks and don’t need a company’s computers to communicate.

This isn’t to say that since you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em and crank the gates open. What I am advocating for is the creation of social media policies that are easy to comprehend and clearly outline the responsiblities placed on every employee who enters into the space, whether as a representative of the company or on their own time. It is completely within a company’s rights to determine how their brand and reputation is discussed and to place restrictions on who can do so or what can be said.

The general feeling with yesterday’s group of seasoned executives is that the majority of employees are respectful when it comes to using social media. It would be egregious to think that it is not possible to use social media responsibly inside a company. However, it would be foolish not to have a policy in place that clearly outlines the rules of engagement and the consequences for not following them.

Just some food for thought!

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