MAD Perspectives Blog

 Yes, you need a Social Media Policy!

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, February 09, 2010

There is a lot of buzz in social media circles this week since it became known that Forrester Research, Inc. has established a policy prohibiting their analysts from having personally branded blogs that discuss Forrester research.  Forrester CEO, George Colony, has recognized the ability for analysts to build a personal brand (i.e., Jeremiah Owyang) based on their expertise in their market segments.  I don’t want to debate whether this decision is good or bad for analysts or whether this policy is a result of Jeremiah’s departure from Forrester as their leading social media analyst.

What’s more interesting is Forrester’s implementation of a social media policy.  They are not the first, nor should they be the last firm recognizing the power of social media, yet focused on protecting their intellectual property.  The value of any company, be they an analyst firm, services business or product company, lies in their “secret sauce”.  This can be their knowledge, their processes, their technology or their innovation.  It’s not surprising that they want their revenue generating value to remain inside company walls.  So, how do companies become more accessible, more human, and more open while protecting their IP and their brand?

One step they can take is to establish a social media policy.  This should be a core component of your overall social media strategy.  Policy, "a definite course of action adopted for the sake of expediency, facility, etc.”, allows companies to establish guidelines for its employees as to how they will behave or communicate.  Several companies have been very public about their social media policies.  They include:  HP, IBM, Intel, Wells Fargo, Wal-Mart, Mayo Clinic, International Olympic Committee (IOC), and many more.  For visibility into these policies click here.  In many cases, these policies are an extension of existing statements regarding employee conduct.

Many social media pundits have shared their thoughts on the ‘must haves’ for a social media policy.  The primary goal for most social media policies is to remind employees that when they blog or chat on behalf of the company, they are an extension of the company.  They should be transparent about the fact that they are an employee and should remain as professional online as they would be in person when communicating with customers, business partners or competitors. Would you share product roadmaps without a non-disclosure agreement in place?  Would you discuss company financials while online at the supermarket?  A social media policy services as a reminder that while social media can provide great benefits to companies in terms of visibility, transparency, accesibility and marketing, it is a forum with open access by and for anyone.

The social media policy helps the company articulate its goals for using social media.  It provides business units and employees with the guidelines that enable them to take advantage of social media for the benefit of the company. Is your company utilizing social media?  If so, do you have a social media policy?

What’s your perspective?