What to include in a social networking policy
and how to effectively communicate the message to employees are complex issues. In
assessing the organization’s answers to these
questions and drafting the policy, most associations will find a variety of positions among
the senior management team. However, some
of the preliminary and fundamental questions
that must be addressed include:
Do we or don’t we? Does the organization
limit use of social media at work, or prohibit it altogether?
How do we define “social media?” It is
not safe to assume that employees will
understand the scope of the definition and
prohibitions unless the policy provides
What is legitimate use? If it is agreed that
social media may be used at work, do we
differentiate between using it for association marketing opportunities and using it
to check Facebook between work projects?
If so, the policy must clearly distinguish
between what is meant by business and
personal use. Air Movement & Control Asso-
ciation International, for example, expressly
prohibits “engaging in online, non-business
related chat groups, social networking Web
sites or instant messaging conversations.”
Is social networking activity OK at work?
Some employees use social media every
day and believe it is no different from the
interactions that occur between workers
over a cube wall or around the proverbial
water cooler. If it is acceptable to have
social interactions face-to-face, why would
similar Internet conversations be unaccept-
Does social media bring value to the busi-
ness of the association? Membership and
marketing managers may say that social
networking is the latest and greatest way to
brand the association’s products and ser-
vices, while other department managers may
not see social networking as a value-added
tool. Have the conversation and decide.
What about productivity? Will social media
render employees non-productive? Or will
productive employees generally always be
productive, regardless of the distractions,
and non-productive employees continue to
How do we monitor it? Does the associa-
tion currently monitor use of non-work
related sites such as sports and shopping?
Will the association monitor use to deter-
mine how much is too much social network-
ing time at work?
Do we consider how the association is
represented? Should the scope include
providing guidance on how the association
is represented on personal social network-
ing pages, even if they are not visited while
at work? Some employees view their per-
sonal and work lives as separate, yet oth-
ers mix the two and may nonchalantly post
work information, anecdotes and pictures
on their personal social media pages.
approaches put the responsibility and sense
of ownership on the employee/writer rather
than being a dictate from organization management (or worse yet, the legal department).
There are a myriad of issues that arise
when an association decides to tackle the
implementation of a social media policy.
However, of primary importance is defining the organization’s needs and the purpose behind implementing the policy,
clearly stating the objectives and parameters to employees (via the policy as well
as other, more interactive opportunities),
and reviewing the policy periodically to
ensure it continues to meet the objectives
and needs of the organization.
Lisa R. Callaway, J.D., SPHR, is vice president/general
counsel for The Management Association of Illinois.
She may be reached at email@example.com.
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