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In preparation for an upcoming speaking engagement on appropriate social media behavior, I brushed up on the social media policies from a handful of organizations. Big organizations. Think Netflix, Ford, Best Buy, Hewlett-Packard and the Los Angeles Times. These companies all have:

  • A lot of influence on consumers
  • Hundreds to thousands of employees
  • and, some level of social responsibility internally and externally.

As with most organizations in today's day and age, they also have social media policies that explicitly outline expectations, guidelines, and consequences if they are not adhered to. However, what I found interesting and inspiring, is that their policies did not hinder social media use or freedom of speech in any way. In fact, they encourage it!

Netflix is all about freedom. "Responsible people thrive on freedom and are worthy of freedom."

Ford states that all employees should "use their common sense."

Best Buy emphasizes that "dishonorable content such as racial, ethnic, sexual, religious, and physical disability slurs are not tolerated."

Hewlett-Packard reminds social users that "the company reserves the right to edit or amend any misleading or inaccurate content depicted in blog posts. The company also reserves the right to delete blog posts violating the code of conduct."

Lastly, the Los Angeles Times says that "principles of integrity, professionalism, privacy and impartiality should be observed by journalists when posting online."

I sincerely love all of these social guidelines because they blatantly reinforce the simple truth of – as said by Ford – using common sense! We all want our freedom to express our opinions, beliefs, and feelings, but when has slandering someone's race or religion ever been appropriate? Furthermore, if you are upset with the organization you work for, social media isn't the place to handle those issues – in fact, it often makes it worse. That being said, if you feel so strongly that the company you work for is a negative place to work, it probably isn't the best fit for you and is a sign that you should start looking for other opportunities.

Though all of these organizations push and encourage their employees to use social media, they still reserve the right to dismiss anyone who violates their documented policies. Policies that are public and made aware to any new hire or existing employee – because as an employee you represent not only yourself on social media, you represent the company you work for, organizations in which you volunteer and any other group that you have agreed to associate your name.

Therefore, it is your social responsibility to represent each organization that you are associated with, according to the appropriate guidelines and standards. After all, you agreed to it!

So my challenge to all of you who are reading this is simply to think about who you are. You can go as deep and profound with the answer as you want to be, but on the surface think about all of the organizations that you touch, represent and are associated with. You are a representation of each and influence how others view those organizations. If you are going to be social, be responsible. Think before you speak and truly live out your social responsibility to make a challenging, insightful and positive impact on your audience.

tagged with: Social Media

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