This is a question that sparked a great conversation at the inaugural Social Media Breakfast Raleigh that I co-organized with fellow social media enthusiast, Kipp Bodnar.

The conversation centered largely around Twitter, where anyone with an interest can post unlimited 140-character missives at a pace similar to the speed of light.

But can this freedom pose a problem for organizations if their employees are not using common sense or thinking about the fact that they represent a larger entity beyond themselves?

Duke Williams chimed in with this: “If you allow a person to answer the phone, they should be able to have a twitter account.” He doesn’t think guidelines are needed, and allows anyone on his staff to have an account. In fact, he encourages it.

Martin Reed, who was not at the event but answered the question when I posed it on twitter a few days later believes that guidelines are absolutely necessary if an employee is strongly associated with the company. Several people at the social media breakfast shared this sentiment as well.

Robyn Kalda has a different opinion, one that’s very similar to Duke Williams’ and sent me this reply via twitter: “No, they should trust their employees to behave professionally. Do we have guidelines on how to use a telephone?”

So on one hand we have those who view tweeting as they do communicating over the phone, and others who see it as a potential risk to employers who don’t attempt to exert some element of control. Kalda believes that either you trust your people to speak, or you’ve hired the wrong people.

I definitely see how there could be cause for concern and am somewhat on the fence. I think that perhaps it depends on the organization. Should CIA operatives spend time divulging strategies on twitter? Of course not, but is there real harm to random employees occasionally talking shop in the twitterverse? Maybe.

What do you think? Should companies be worried about the messages employees are conveying through twitter or trust them to use their best judgment? And what exactly is at risk if they don’t?

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Online Community Strategist

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