4 reasons you don’t need a social media policy

social media policyEvery once in a while I hear someone talking about needing a “social media policy” at work. Ugh. If you know me at all you’ll instantly guess that I’m against such things. I would rather offer training instead of more regulation. Here are four reasons you probably don’t need a social media policy at all:

  • Conversations can happen anywhere. You don’t have a “parking lot conversations” policy, so why create a separate, special policy just for social media? People can do as much damage talking about your company in a crowded restaurant as they can with a Facebook post, but you don’t see anyone creating policies on that.
  • Is it worth your time? Is your core business function monitoring social media or creating/delivering a product or service? You can stand over peoples’ shoulders as long as you want but it’s not going to add value to be business.
  • We’re listening to the lawyers on this? When has a lawyer ever said, “You know what? You really don’t need a policy for that specific situation” with regard to the employer/employee relationship? I’m guessing never. If we listened to the lawyers and their scare tactics we’d have a handbook that rivals the size of the Alabama state constitution.
  • Are they adults or not? If not, then you’re breaking a few child labor laws. If so, then we need to treat them like it. If you act like they are childish and incapable of handling themselves, then they will be. If you treat them as respectable, functional adults, then they will be (for the most part). Don’t make policies for outliers. That guy who clips his toenails on his desk? Don’t make a toenail-clipping-at-your-desk policy. Pull him aside and tell him it’s inappropriate. I’ll say it again: don’t make policies for outliers.

I’m sure there are more! What are your reasons for companies to forego a social media policy?

5 thoughts on “4 reasons you don’t need a social media policy

  1. Jay Kuhns

    I like the idea of avoiding a policy, but I firmly believe a set of guidelines, a roadmap if you will, is important here. Since social media is still so new to so many (particularly those that run our organizations) simply avoiding formal communication on the topic is probably not going to play well. A set of guidelines however encourages employees to use the various tools, and also helps them avoid pitfalls they might not otherwise think of ahead of time (employee/patient/customer privacy for example). HR already has enough policies, but some general information on how to move forward can be very useful.

    Great topic Ben!

  2. Sophie

    Great post Ben! I completely agree with you and encourage training more than adding a policy.

  3. Paige Holden

    Good post. I agree that we tend to get a litte policy crazy, but Jay is right on. I think there needs to be formal communication on the issue, coupled with training sessions as needed. Of course, formal communication does not necessarily mean strict regulation, but a roadmap of what is, and is not, acceptable is really in the best interest of bot the employer and the employee. Can we monitor every online posting? No, nor should we. But a lose set of guidelines can help people put more thought into what they are posting online and the impact it can have offline – from both a professional and personal perspective.

  4. Patty Tanji

    Great post Ben! Judging by the amount of tweets – we posting here are not the only people who believe this to be true. Nice summary. It does seem by the posts here that there is some confusion about policy vs guidelines. I think they are indistinguishable. The human experience is messy. Even the most stringent set of rules and codes of behavior can not stop any person from doing anything. Employees and employers will spread defamatory messages in social media and they will start some really cool stuff too. But, people truly are responsible for their own behavior in the office and in cyber space. Even a parent has to say — okay child of mine — go forth and make mistakes.

  5. hongvan

    Great post with good reasons, Ben.Conversations can happen anywhere so People can do as much damage talking about your company in a crowded restaurant as they can with a Facebook post, but you don\’t see anyone creating policies on that

    It’s so true

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