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A new survey conducted by Junior Achievement and Deloitte finds that teens fully expect to access social networking sites on-the-job. Will they get a rude awakening, or will this be the status quo by the time they enter the workforce?

I think we have yet to determine the answer to this one, and it will likely depend on what happens in the next few years. Employers need to realize that policies will have to be created and they need to really figure out their stance sooner than later. I’ve been an advocate of social media guidelines, and those who haven’t may be after reading the results of this poll.

I’ve included the entire press release for your reading pleasure:

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., Dec. 9 /PRNewswire/ — Online social networks have become so central to teens’ lifestyles that they would consider their ability to access them during working hours when weighing a job offer. This is according to the seventh annual Junior Achievement/Deloitte Teen Ethics Survey, which focused on the ethical implications of the popularity of social networking.

Nearly nine-in-10 (88 percent) teens surveyed use social networks every day, with 70 percent saying they participate in social networking an hour or more daily. More than half (58 percent) said they would consider their ability to access social networks at work when considering a job offer from a potential employer. This comes as many organizations have begun implementing policies that limit access to social networks during the workday due to concerns about unethical usages, such as time theft, spreading rumors about co-workers or managers and leaking proprietary information, among other reasons.

Most of the teens surveyed feel prepared to make ethical decisions at work (82 percent) and a significant majority of teens say they do not behave unethically while using social networks (83 percent). Yet, despite this confidence in the integrity of their online behavior, significant numbers of teens do not consider the reactions of specific groups of influencers in their lives when posting content on social networks. Specifically, 40 percent do not consider the potential reactions of college admissions officers, 38 percent do not consider the reactions of present or future employers, and 30 percent do not consider their parents’ reactions. Moreover, 16 percent readily admitted to behavior that included posting content embarrassing to others, spreading rumors and pretending to be someone other than themselves. Ultimately, more than half of those who did admit to posting this type of content about others (54 percent) said they later regretted doing so.

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Social Media Guidelines. What exactly are they? How should they be written? Do we need them? How do we enforce them?  We’ve had this discussion a lot this year. From the firestorm that erupted upon the release of the Washington Post’s social media guidelines to the equally riveting conversation surrounding ESPN’s social media policy.

This was one of the biggest tasks I tackled for my company this year as head of our social media task force, and the approach we took seems to be working well. Because of my experience with this, I decided to kick off the lists for 2010 which are certainly to come in droves over the next few weeks. So here is my personal list of social media guidelines that I strongly discourage anyone from adopting across the board.

Don’t be Stupid!

This is an all-encompassing statement that you may think conveys trust in your employees but what it really does is set them up to fail. Let’s consider the word “stupid.” What exactly is the definition? This term is way too subjective and is often based on one’s sense of humor. My interpretation of the word will differ from yours. So imagine how many variations of stupid exist in a room of hundreds?

Consider this: Is it “stupid” to tweet that you had a bad day at work as long as you don’t provide details as to who contributed to that bad day?

Is it stupid to announce that you’ve acquired a new client? It may not be a smart move from the perspective of top management, but an employee who closed a deal may think that putting that out in the universe is a good move and could potentially attract more clients.

That’s the problem with merely issuing this edict. Stupid must be defined, and that means actually putting thought into a strategy to provide your staff with guidance and expectations.

You always represent the company!

Again, what exactly does “always” mean? Does the employee represent the company only when they are “clocked-in” during working hours? Are they representative of the organization on the weekends, during vacation? While the word “always” indicates infinity for some, there are many employees who disassociate themselves from their employers the minute they leave the premises. Sure, the die-hard company man and woman will get this because they are used to representing the company, especially if they’re a manager. You have to be clear with this type of directive. If everything that the employee posts on every social network represents the company then spell it out. Provide a definition that will leave little room for misunderstanding.

Be smart!

This is very similar to “Don’t be stupid.” However, it is more of a “we trust you” than the former. Translation: We are not going to spend our time worrying about this because you guys know how to conduct yourselves. But if you don’t, there will be consequences.”

Consequences for what? Not being smart? I might think it’s smart to share some details about the latest company-wide initiatives, especially if we are striving for “transparency.”  What? That initiative was confidential? I didn’t know. Guess that wasn’t very smart of me, was it?

(See, “Don’t be stupid.”)

We’re watching!

Scare tactics are a sure way to create bad blood between employer and employee. Maybe you are watching, and that’s fine, but is that how you want to rule, with fear? Consider providing tips on how the staff can use social media in ways that reflect well on the company, and watch that. In many cases highlighting favorable behavior is preferable than a detailed list of “don’t.” Encourage and reward the good, don’t hunt down the bad.

Add value!

Again, great intention that can be poorly executed due to misinterpretation. What is value? If my network of friends, followers and readers are all vegetarians, they’d be happy to know that I made an amazing vegetarian dish last night that would make Martha Stewart proud. Is that valuable to my company? Maybe, maybe not. It might be if our overall social media mission statement includes being personable and having fun so that people get to see that side of our staff. But let’s say I work for a huge meat manufacturer and they see me promoting the vegan lifestyle all across the social web. Is that a faux-pas in this case?

Please don’t think this is extreme. This is all still so very new and there will be instances when the most mundane issues take the forefront and cause a meltodwn or chain reaction that seems impossible to turn around.

So there you have it. Five ineffective social media guidelines for 2010 and beyond. Now, could you combine some of these and create a more cohesive message for your staff? Absolutely, but do stay away from the one-liners that lack context, and do allow your guidlines to evolve.

My biggest piece of advice here is to first start with a social media mission statement.

When you’re clear on your reasons for being in the space, the guidelines to support that mission will come.

Good luck.



Don’t you think for a New York minute that the new crackdown on social networking by ESPN is all about control. It may have something to do with it, but it likely has more to do with fear.

Don’t we often look to control that which we fear? Think about an obsessive or abusive boyfriend or jealous spouse who won’t allow their significant other to hang out with their friends. It may not be that they don’t want them to have a good time. They just don’t want others to see what a gem they are and possibly try to steal them away. They don’t have enough confidence in what they bring to the relationship to believe that this person won’t look elsewhere to have their needs met in a better fashion. They are afraid so they block the action that could lead them down this road.

I didn’t plan on blogging about this, (only commenting elsewhere) but after posting a comment on Mashable’s  ESPN responds to Criticism and Publishes Social Media Policy, I realized that I had an opinion worth sharing with those who read my blog. So here it is, my post on that story with a few words added for clarity: 

“On-air talent already have a personal brand. It is actually what serves news organizations in the social media space and why many are exploiting it in the first place. They are already well known and people will follow them.

I don’t like what this means for writers and those who are not on-air talent and their ability to build their own personal brands and express their interests outside of the corporate walls. There are lots of opportunities that they will likely miss and that’s too bad.

As journalists, we all sign some sort of code of ethics agreement. It comes with the territory. I’ve signed one at every TV station and newspaper I’ve worked. It just needs to be applied to social media efforts as well. I have written social media guidelines for my news organization, and the key is to embrace social networking and the myriad possibilities and potential it brings and most importantly to state your expectations.

Don’t just say what *not* to do. Tell the staff what they CAN do, and encourage that.”

Those are my thoughts.  Well, some of them. We must remember that there are other news organization embracing social networking and encouraging staff to try new things. There may be a bit of risk, but someone has to figure it out and that’s exactly what’s happening.  They’re trying to figure it out… just like the rest of us.



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It is important to have community guidelines. They are imperative for any online community. Members need to know what is expected of them and what types of behaviors are frowned upon or prohibited within the community.

I remember creating the guidelines for the community I manage. It was laborious but imperative.  I scoured the internet for guidelines from other communities and then thought a lot about what kind of community I’d like to see take shape.

Writing such guidelines can make you feel as though you’re building an environment where all will be well. You think that people will refer to these guidelines and perhaps even follow them.

But having those guidelines in place does not make every call I make as a community manager, an easy one.  In fact, I rarely go back to them when making tough decisions. Guidelines are a starting point. Interpreting those guidelines is how you become an effective community manager. The way you do that interpreting can make or break you.

This job is not about being a robot. It’s emotional and we are human.You can stare at the guidelines all day long and never get the answers you need when things get complicated. I know that many of my peers will argue the point and say that guidelines are guidelines. You follow them or you go.  But it’s not that easy with me.

Let me illustrate why I feel this way:  A few months ago a long-time member had posted several comments and even a blog or two that were directed at another member. The comments were mean and degrading. It was really out of character for her. Were those comments abusive according to the guidelines? Yes. I could have stopped right there, marked her comments and blogs as abuse and she would have lost her posting privileges, community profile, the works. In most cases, that should probably be the outcome.

BUT…I knew that her dog had just been hit by a car and died because she’d been blogging about it since the day it happened  and it looked like she was responding to someone who had been taunting her about that.  His comments, however,  had NOT been reported as abuse so it all looked very one-sided.

I sent her an email letting her know that I was not going to dock her for the comments because I knew she was in an emotional state. But I also warned her that she must take control of her emotions because I would not do it again.

She responded with great gratitude and apologized profusely for allowing herself to get sucked in by someone else and for resorting to such antics. She said that she just couldn’t take it because she was feeling guilty about letting her dog run out into the street and his comments about her negligence pushed her over the cyber-edge. She did not want to lose her privileges.

For me, that was time well spent. I know it doesn’t scale, and that’s a real issue for me as the community grows, but that’s the kind of community manager I like to be. One who can empathize and know enough about the members to make a difference.

Guidelines don’t empathize.

You can.

This post was inspired by #CmtyChat, (created by Sonny Gill and Bryan Person) a weekly meeting of the minds where community enthusiasts chat via Twitter about all that ails us and then some.

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I work in a form of advertising. I often want to tweet or comment on different ads I’m working on. Even when it’s positive, I have to stop myself.

What violation of a clients privacy or breach of confidentiality could I be making by making a simple tweet? Possibly spoiling their new ad campaign? Not likely, but it’s not a chance worth taking, either.

I think employers will have to consider guidelines sooner than later. For anyone who uses a service like Twitter while at work, the natural inclination is to occasionally mention work related topics — possibly even vent about work related issues. That might seem harmless enough, but it could certainly backfire.

I consider it a positive move for companies to at least inform employees of mistakes they could make in relation to their jobs through social media. If not guidelines, maybe just a list of ‘bad ideas’.

Jeremy Lindh is a website and community developer. He blogs here and goes by @jeremylindh, on twitter.


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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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This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer. Feel free to challenge me, disagree with me, or tell me I’m completely nuts in the comments section of each blog entry.


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