If you have been paying attention to recent marketing and communication trends in the business world, then you are already well aware of the popularity and significance social media has had on molding the way companies portray themselves on the internet.  We are well aware of the exposure our companies can get, the personal conversations with consumers that can develop, and the broad range of significant benefits we can reap from employing social media tactics in our overall marketing and branding plans.  What we sometimes can overlook, however, are some of the negative effects social media can have on our businesses.   After the initial excitement about how millions of people can see your company and what you have to say with the simple click of a mouse, employers then began to think, “Uh oh, millions of people can see our EMPLOYEES and what they are saying as well.”  And thus, the urge to control these employee profiles and conversations through social media policies was born.

But how much control on an employee’s personal life should an employer be allowed to have?  Their days in the office are regulated by employee conduct policies, dress codes, and the like, and many people feel such regulations shouldn’t follow an employee home at night on their evening commute. People who feel this way believe personal social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, etc. are an individual’s space to express themselves to friends and family, and portray their interests, hobbies, and personalities in a way that is separate from work.  People on the other side of the fence, however, argue that friends and family are not the only ones in the audience; potential or current clients and consumers may have access to these profiles as well.  As such, companies are feeling an increasing need to monitor what photographs employees put up, what conversations they are involved in, and even what opinions they are allowed to voice.  For instance, some companies ban their employees from voicing any public opinions on sensitive topics such as politics and religion for fear that those personal beliefs will be associated with the beliefs of the company as a whole.

In an Inc.com article, one social media strategist even suggested that one company social media policy simply wasn’t enough, and he suggested companies employ individual policies on each of the following:

  • Employee Code of Conduct for Online Communications
  • Employee Code of Conduct for Company Representation in Online Communications
  • Employee Blogging Disclosure Policy
  • Employee Facebook Usage Policy
  • Employee Personal Blog Policy
  • Employee Personal Social Network Policy
  • Employee Personal Twitter Policy
  • Employee LinkedIn Policy
  • Corporate Blogging Policy
  • Corporate Blog Use Policy
  • Corporate Blog Post Approval Process
  • Corporate Blog Commenting Policy
  • Corporate Facebook Brand Page Usage Policy
  • Corporate Facebook Public Comment/Messaging Policy
  • Corporate Twitter Account Policy
  • Corporate YouTube Policy
  • Corporate YouTube Public Comment Policy
  • Company Password Policy

What are your opinions?  Where are the lines between personal and professional?  What control do you believe companies should be able to have on individual expression?