Implement Social Media Guidelines, Now

Guest post by Dan Schawbel: Follow him on Twitter | Read his blog


Technology has united our professional and personal identities into one.  You are no longer just the financial analyst, doctor, lawyer or “social media guru” during work hours.  People all around you, sitting in cubicles, in offices and even the secretary can find out more personal information about you, with a single search in Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  There is no hiding anymore and our identities will fuse even more in the future, as we use social technologies more and more during work.

Of course companies have concerns with how employees behave on the internet because it’s a reflection of their brand, as well as the employees.  Smart companies understand that their employees are their greatest asset and they can harness their networks, which are visible online, to help support their initiatives.  Most people I talk with haven’t yet realized that they can actually add more value to their current position by tweeting out announcements or blogging about a new product feature, for example.

Here are some interesting statistics

- 63% of businesses fear that social networking endangers their corporate security (Sophos, April 2009 )

- More than one in three businesses have no policies concerning the use of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter in the workplace (Russell Herder and Ethos Business Law, August 2009 )

- 71% of IT departments block users from social networking (American Management Association, July 2009 )

As you can see, companies are fearful that critical information may be leaked out by an employee or that employees may be unproductive, by “playing around” on social networks instead of doing their jobs.  A lot of companies don’t know how to go about creating a social media policy because these concepts are still brand new to them.  Just like laws are created when someone gets hurt or there’s a fatality, the same goes for social media policies.  An employee has to leak information or get into a quarrel with a competitor for a company to wakeup.

Many companies will mimic the social media policies of industry leaders (You can view a list of social media policies here ), so that they have a framework to work with.  Every company should have a policy and most will soon enough because their bound to run into conflicts in this “public” world.

The top five reasons for implementing corporate guidelines:

1. Employees will have a clear idea of your position when it comes to social media so they will be able to communicate that to the outside world.

2. Employees will feel empowered that they can leverage their social networks in support of their role, as well as for their professional careers.

3. Companies will be legally protected from the possible misuse and misbehavior of their employees online.

4. Companies will appear more innovative, forward thinking and acknowledgeable of how social media has integrated through employees lives and the rest of the world.

5. Employees will have a set of best practices and guidance while they venture into the social media world, so even the beginners have some reference guide to turn to.

In conclusion, if you’re an employee right now and your company doesn’t have a social media policy, speak up and do something about it, before you end up getting in trouble or causing a conflict that may get you fired.  Think of a policy as something good for your company and that can help guide you to a more socially savvy workplace environment.



Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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