What should employees be allowed to post on personal networks?

March 26, 2012

On Small Business has a new feature in which young entrepreneurs will answer common questions about small business owners’ social media needs. The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of young entrepreneurs.

Do you have any rules for employees’ posts on their own personal social networks?

John Hall, CEO of Digital Talent Agents in Columbia, Mo.:

“There is no reason to have a bunch of rules for employee posts on their own networks. They work hard for you and deserve the freedom to post what they want on their private social media platforms. Plus, who has the time to check up on and monitor every social network of every employee? It’s an unnecessary waste of time that should be devoted to expanding your company and revenue.

“If anything, keep it simple. There should only be one rule — employees shouldn’t post things that can affect the company in a negative way. That simple rule is one that can protect both their personal and company brand. If you list off a bunch of strict rules, then you’re creating an environment without trust. Remember that you hired these people. You should trust that all of your employees wouldn’t do something to risk the company’s success. If you can’t trust an employee with something so simple, then they shouldn’t be working for you. End of story.”

Derek Shanahan, founder and chief community officer of Foodtree in Vancouver, B.C.:

“The rules for employee’s posts on their social networks are unspoken, and thus don’t exist until they need to. We try to be an accessible, open company, and understand that there may be a few times in which someone says or does something online that doesn’t fit perfectly with the expectations of our community. But we also believe that’s unlikely to happen if we hire people who are a good fit for our culture.

“We’re a start-up, though, so I realize our policy isn’t necessarily possible at a larger organization. I’ve consulted with those types of firms, and my general suggestion has always been to avoid heavy-handed policies in lieu of an open dialogue with employees, and concerted effort to make the corporate voice and message crystal clear to the team. I think companies need to be mindful that the social Web will increasingly become intertwined with the younger generation’s identity and self-expression, and taking a hard line on ‘regulating’ that expression will only get harder as time passes. The best long-term course of action is to structure policies with the team’s feedback, and evolve those policies as the workforce matures in their use of them.”

Ilya Pozin, founder of Ciplex in Los Angeles:

“At our company, we stay away from policing our employees. We don’t have people clock in/out, we give unlimited personal time off, and we don’t block sites like Facebook. After all, we’re all adults right? In fact, whenever we need a new designer, we ask our staff first, and usually they help us fill the position quickly. Why? Because we encourage them to be social. Utilizing social networks such as Twitter or Facebook to fill positions is becoming easier day by day. We would be sending the wrong message if we told our staff that they can’t use Facebook during work hours, but only if we needed them to help us fill a position.”

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