I am most in agreement with Ted about social media presenting an opportunity to companies to engage their creative employees and let them flourish. This requires clear guidelines that are flexible enough to allow for employees to be artists in what they do.Seth Godin describes this really well in his new book Linchpin (if you haven’t checked it out yet, it is a must read). His general point is that corporate work trains obedience, being just good enough, and waiting for orders. To thrive in today’s world we need employees who are artists. They contribute value, connect to customers in ways that are human, and can make a real impact that propels the company. These people are linchpins.Rigid guidelines choke the life out of such employees. Demanding metrics over artistry mechanizes the processes, makes it sub par, and outsourceable. It’s why companies like Apple and Google, the leaders in business, thrive and are adored. Other companies say they want to be like Apple or Google, but this just means they want to be loved while producing mediocre results.Any social media policy should be a guideline. Your employees are smart enough to know what they should and shouldn’t do (if not – get new employees). A good legal department balances the need of the company to have a policy in place they can point to if something goes wrong, with the need for employees to be free enough to create without fear of censorship, backlash, or worse. It is a risky game, but one with great rewards if done right.
A social media policy is not some revolutionary mysterious thing. It is a policy. Likely a policy no one will read anyway. Where companies experience mastery is when they do things that are risky, things that ordinary policy making would cry “NO! Don’t do that!”
Notice I said risky. Not stupid. As a member of the legal department it is your job to protect the company, but realize that your employees are likely smarter than you think they are. Also, they are more creative than most of us realize.
If your management creates a linchpin culture where employees take risk, reach for greatness, and share their gifts then your policies at best should be guidelines to help amplify that. If you have an assembly line amassing Twitter followers than perhaps you want something more rigid that will meet the CYA standard. All I’m saying is that in a world where everybody is on Facebook, the winners are those who can connect with customers in ways that automation cannot.