When Social Media Policy Goes Wrong: A Lesson From the Olympics

london-olympicsI am a Social Media Manager for The Starr Conspiracy. It's 2012. In my immediate circle, I would be hard-pressed to find someone not using social media.

That's not true.

My great-grandma is turning 93 this year.

She does not have the Twitters.

96% of people surveyed by Business Insider claim to use Facebook. Somewhere between 80% and 90% of marketers say social media is important to their business. Social media is maturing. Some still call it the Wild West, and when I read archaic social media policies, like the IOC's guidelines for Olympic athletes, I wonder if they are right.

The IOC might be behind the times, but they certainly aren't there alone.

I have read so many social media policies. Oftentimes, these crappy social media policies are written by professionals with good intentions. The question is usually, "How can we protect our company's reputation and still let employees have their fun on social media?"

Like Olympic athletes, the employees ruled by those strict policies often rebel.

And for those who don't rebel, also like Olympic athletes, other employees may just feel restricted or become aware of the controlling nature of management in their company.

In some ways, a lot of these policies are progressive. In that, for example, they exist. A lot of companies are not doing social. And even more companies are not doing social right.

For example, the social media hub for Olympics athletes is pretty progressive and cool.

But the fact that they cannot thank their sponsors, post photos from the Olympics, or that their past social media activities (pre-Olympics) can punish them in their events? Not cool.

If you're wondering if your social media policy is progressive or prohibitive, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do I trust the employees of this company? If your answer is no, you have bigger problems than a social media policy. Social media does not inspire employees to badmouth good companies. Bad companies inspire people to badmouth companies. If you don't trust your employees, figure out why and try to fix it.
  • Do I have genuinely good intentions for protecting employees, clients and the company on social media? Only you can know whether or not your intentions are to protect your company and employees or if they are to restrict social media usage out of fear for the platforms or lack of trust for your team.
  • Are the guidelines in my social media policy reasonable? Have you destroyed the whole purpose of using social media? Have you made it less of a hassle to create an entire fake identity on social media than to operate within your guidelines?

I understand that not every couple was created equally. I know that some companies operate in industries that are sensitive. And in those cases, you do the best you can to cover your bases and nothing more.

No gratuitous rules for managing employees online necessary.

No matter how established or immature social media seems from day to day, the important thing is that you take a strategic approach to any company-wide initiative.

Consult people from different departments and different organizations, if you can.

Take it slow. Think it through.