Have you ever had to sign a social media policy once you were hired? I did, for the first time last summer. All the interns were asked to read the company’s social media policy and sign a contract promising to abide by the rules. Although I didn’t think much of it then, I realized how important the policies are and how you could get into big legal trouble without one.
For instance, imagine a new employee is having an awful day at work and decides to Tweet about it to his/her 500 followers. If they mention your organization or disclose information that shouldn’t leave the office walls, you’ve got negative word of mouth and confidential information that can easily reach a large audience fairly quickly. That’s why I’ve seen a relatively large spike in the number of organizations drafting their own social media policies for employees to sign.
I dug around a little online and tried to find some other well written policies liked the one I signed over the summer. If you’re as curious as I am, Social Media Governance is a great resource. They have numerous company case studies available to the public for free. It was there that I stumbled across Best Buy’s Social Media Policy that was written in March of 2009 but updated about a year ago.
Overall the policy stands alone on their website. A little bit lost under Community Information and Welcome/News but at least available for the public to review.
What immediately struck my interest was their mantra for all things social:
Be smart. Be Respectful. Be human.
After reading the first line of the policy I felt like they had the right attitude for going about social media. They state,
“Guidelines for functioning in an electronic world are the same as the values, ethics, and confidentiality policies employees are expected to live every day, whether you’re Twittering, talking with customers or chatting over the neighbor’s fence.”
This felt very real and reasonable to me. It would appear that Best Buy understands you’re human and want to talk about things online but they ask that you carry the same grace and respect whether you’re talking online, in the store, (or my personal favorite) “chatting over the neighbor’s fence.” Although the word “Twittering” (as opposed to Tweeting) worries me a little bit, within the first 2 lines I’m already complying to everything they are saying.
They break up the rest of the policy into two categories: “What you should do” and “What you should never disclose.” Overall the content is pretty standard. Under things you should do they state things like…
- Disclose your affiliation
- State that it’s YOUR (in all caps) opinion
- Protect yourself
- Act responsibly and ethically, etc.
I think the first two here are most important and go together. Disclosing your affiliation to Best Buy lets your followers and fans know that you’re commenting on the company as an affiliated employee. Stating that it’s your opinion is also crucial because otherwise you could look like you’re tweeting/posting on the companies behalf instead of your own.
Under things you should never disclose they specify…
- The numbers (meaning nonpublic financial or operational information)
- Personal information (of other employees or customers)
- Anything that belongs to someone else
- Confidential information
While these appear to be pretty common sense, it is still important to explicitly state precautions as Best Buy has done. One of these suggestions that might be commonly overlooked is “Personal Information.”
I’m not going to lie, once upon a time, I worked in retail and sometimes the customers you meet are a little crazy. If something funny happens, it’s so hard not to share with the world about the sales transaction that just occurred. But what employees fail to realize is that they are not only publically disclosing information about another person (without their consent) but also negatively portraying the customers that come into the store as weird or something. This could ultimately have a negative affect on future consumers.
Bottom line is: be smart about what you share online if it has any relation to your work, co-workers or company. If not, someone will come after you.
Best Buy lists the possible scenarios if you are “forgetful or ignore the guidelines” listed above with 3 possibilities. You could:
- Get fired
- Get Best Buy in legal trouble with customers and investors
- Cost [Best Buy] the ability to get and keep customers
From these consquences I realized an important take-away. While social media policies are about you as an online activist with an entitled opinion, it’s more about protecting the company, customers and shareholders invested within the organization.
Overall, I’d say this is a pretty sound social media policy. They cover what not to do vs. what should be done and state the consequences of not following their orders. It’s short, but sweet and lets employees know what’s acceptable and what’s not.
So, make sure you read through your firm’s social media policy before you start posting inappropriate things online.
In light of Best Buy’s social media policy, I’ll leave you with their parting words
Remember: protect the brand, protect yourself.