Sunday, September 11, 2011

Social Media Policies at Your Organization

In the beginning, we heard about employees being fired for negative social media posts against their employers. Now, I am reading about lawsuits where the decision is being made in favor of those employees.

There are two clearly different issues around people using social media to negatively represent the organizations they work for: one is an employee who believes that on social media, he or she is not a representative of the organization and what they talk about with their friends is none of your business! The other is an employee who is knowingly using social media platforms to represent the organization. Where do you draw the line? If at any time, you have said the name of the organization you work for, you cross the line from private citizen to public employee. Or, I would argue, that if anyone who sees that post knows where you work and sees your commentary on that organization, you are representing that organization.

Facebook gets a lot of bad rap about this, but the same problems could easily appear on any other network as well. Most Gen Xers and Baby Boomers still see Facebook as the network for only their close friends and family. They know that there are privacy mechanisms in place that protect what they share with certain groups or lists. Or, at least, they think they know this. I have also heard funny stories of criminals talking about crimes they committed on Facebook. Anything that you think is private could be held against you in a court of law. This is the reason I gave up on privacy settings awhile ago. My profile is set so that friends of friends can see most of what I post. This means that I have chosen to post fewer updates and links that are of personal interest to me (i.e. political, religious, etc.). The types of subjects that you don't talk about with acquaintances are the types of subjects that you should not be posting on the internet, unless you want the whole world to know how you feel about a certain topic. There are occasions when you may still do that. There are certain people who share these types of subjects intentionally. Where people are missing the boat is they trust that the privacy settings on their social networks will protect them from sharing things with people whom they don't mean to share with.

Here's some food for thought. If an organization treated its employees well, had a social media policy in place that encouraged them to share good news about their work, and the employees felt like their jobs were part of who they are, we would not have any of these issues. Entrepreneurs and other people who are passionate about what they do make it very evident on their social media profiles. They want you to know where they work because they are proud to do what they do!

Our society has gone very far down this path of transparency and authenticity on the internet. You have an online presence, whether you like it or not. You can choose to positively participate and make sure that what people find is what you want them to find, or you can hide behind your privacy settings (for now).