The Variance of Corporate Social Media Policies

Our research indicates that 2/3rds of US online Youth (ages 12-17) use social networks at least monthly, and 20% of teens use them daily. (Q4, 2007) There’s no indication that I’ve seen that the adoption will decrease as they enter the workforce.

David Churbuck (whose name I finally got right) is a web strategist at Lenonvo computers, and writes a compelling piece Does Your Company Have a Blogging Policy? This is a question I hear to often from the Fortune 5000 who are toe dipping, or just down right scared of employee blogs.

I often defer the conversation a step higher, to discuss how they’ve (hopefully) hired smart people that they trust, and that they are willing and to empower and trust them to make the right decisions both online, and offline. In many cases, some of these companies have over-arching ethics policies that span behavior not just on blogs and social networks, but also at corporate functions, or even when wearing he company shirt at a bar.

Sadly, more than one company has expressed to me they didn’t trust their employees, as either they were an “unruly” group (many of their employees in the field may not have much formal education) or were uncomfortable with how much of their personal lives they shared due to their age (Gen Y shares quite a bit in MySpace and Facebook).

At a more traditional and larger brand, this company wanted to attract more Generation Y and X employees, as over 40% of their workforce (Boomers) are starting to retire in the next 5 years. The fat pensions they’ve been building for the employees has made it quite affordable to retire early –taking their knowledge and networks with them. So to them, they had to be friendly to social media when it came to attracting this younger crowd, and they softened up on their corporate social media policy. Recent research by Deloitte confirms that Gen Y seeks to give back to their community, often in the form of social networking.

So how are companies stringing together these policies? Most commonly, the ethics policy is already in place, and corporations can lean and amend that one. A few have adopted a specific blogging policy, often with the help of the actual bloggers, while a majority may be too decentralized –or not have anyone focusing on it — to create such a policy.

Share with others, if your company has a public blogging or social media policy, please leave a link to it below, and tell us how your company came into agreement for this policy.

55 Replies to “The Variance of Corporate Social Media Policies”

  1. Well my company is just 2 people, but we definately support blogging and are blogging. When we hire more people, we will definately have a blogging & social media policy. We need to put more of an effort though 🙂


  2. Hi Jeremiah, just caught up with your tweet that pointed to this blog post. Good stuff! Yes, IBM has been having a set of blogging guidelines since 2005 and we are currently in the process of updating (Will blog on that subject myself pretty soon!), but for a look into the current ones you can just head over here:, and you will find them there.

    The policy and guidelines was initially put together by a bunch of us, core bloggers, who gathered together in a wiki space to draft it, put it together, share it with the powers that be, get it approved and ready to spread it around. And the revision of those guidelines this time around has followed the exact same process, although initial discussions have taken place through blogging, then the wiki and it’s currently being reviewed. Hope that helps…

  3. We will be implementing one soon (about a month) as a result of some of the social media activities I started within the company and raising awareness that we need one. For example, we are a very large and distributed Fortune 500 company. And while our associates may have the best intention at heart, we have uncovered some instances where they have not been using the medium appropriately (ie spamming or even sharing private information).

    I would love to say that I had a hand in drafting, but our legal department took over. I was able to provide education about blogging and best practices from other companies. At least I was able to have a hand in approval. As you mentioned, it is tied to our code of ethics policies.

  4. I was pleased to find no blogging policy in place at my new employer, which to my mind means that I am left to my own discretion. For the first time yesterday I posted on work I had been doing for them. I sent a quick message to my boss, plus the vp and marketing guy, and told them, with a link what I’d done and why. They loved it…

    If you can’t trust your employees, you need to get new employees.

  5. Rats! Jeremiah, it looks like it keeps adding foreign characters! Not a dot! Grrr! Either way … go to and you can see the Guidelines link on the top left. Hope this time it will work 😉

    (You can delete the previous comment, if you want)

  6. I work at a large telecom company, and we just finished the final draft of our social media policy yesterday. We used some existing guidelines (Sun, IBM) as a model, and even included a section that included Forrester’s guidelines for corporate blogging.

  7. I work for a Fincial data & news company where being non bias is a bonus. News = facts, but blogging is your own opinion & therfore biased. My company encourages blogging but says it’s “not the opion of the company”.

  8. CommunityLend corporate blogging policy:
    Rule #1- its not a corporate blog – it is written by people:

    We want to:
    – be genuine and build trust
    – listen carefully, understand and respond
    – be chivalrous: gracious and honourable towards all

  9. I run the Circuit City company blog and Twitter account. Being a retailer and publicly-traded company, there are a few soft guidelines that I try to adhere to. Mostly thing like not posting pieces that might damage vendor relations, not insulting customers, etc. Mostly common sense things.

    The challenge I’m facing now is that we’ve reached the point where I’m going to have to start recruiting more bloggers in order to grow the program. I’m 32 and I’ve worked in corp. America since I was 22, so I know what’s off limits and what’s not. But that may not hold true for a 22 year old new hire. What I’m working myself up to is actually developing a set of rough guidelines, and instituting some sort of initial review process for new bloggers, maybe for a month or so, just to make sure they get off on the right foot. There are also certain kinds of posts that need to go through our PR department first. They’re few and far between, thankfully.

  10. Just a follow-up to my previous post, while we have these on-site guidelines, I’ve never seen any kind of official policy, but that may be because the topic has never come up with Legal and ExComm.

  11. One of the reasons that I have chosen to blog semi-anonymously is because my employer, a Fortune 500 company, repeatedly reminds its employees that only certain spokespersons are authorized to speak on behalf of the company. To reduce the likelihood that my pronouncements may be seen as representing my employer, I choose not to blog under my real name, and very rarely blog about my employer’s activities. (The fact that my real name, Tony Orlando, could be confused with someone else is another reason why I have made this choice. j/k)

    Public companies do have some concerns regarding possible SEC violations, and the increasingly litigious nature of our society does indicate that there is a real threat to corporations from the wrong statement, made at the wrong time. And when you employ tens of thousands of people, it’s easier to discourage blogging and play it safe than to encourage it under certain guidelines.

    It’s not an easy problem to solve.

  12. His emperorship above may know about the Whole Foods Rahodeb situation. That CEO blog has been “temporarily” suspended since last July!

  13. this is walking on ClueTrain Manifesto territory somewhat, isn’t it? I guess rather than a “policy” per se, which implies a measure of top-down-control, I’d prefer to frame it as friendly guidelines. I’m not sure how well bloggers would respond to “don’t say anything about us because you’re not our official spokesperson”, but I think would respond well to “ensure it’s clear you’re not speaking officially on behalf of the company, and also, consider that it may be read by your ceo”.
    oops – went a bit off topic from “does your company have …” (A: not yet, but will) to “what kind of …” sorry.

  14. I don’t think “policy” should be considered a bad word, especially if the company is public. Personally I like the “Sun Policy on Public Discourse” which is publicly posted here:

    Companies have lots of stakeholders — employees and customers, but also investors. Transparency is an important objective for companies — but the SEC (see reg FD – for fair disclosure) wants to make sure that transparency is also equally distributed. This is a fair and reasonable objective but it does put a burden on companies to make sure that the way in which confidential information is disclosed is managed. Policy is a useful word when dealing with this kind of issue.

    Many other examples come to mind — competitive issues, privacy issues, other legal points like intellectual property protection… policies are useful in highlighting where these issues begin and end.

  15. The last company I worked for had a blanket policy regarding information related to the organization and though it came from the dark ages they applied it to blogging and other social media. Simply put – everything had to be approved by the marketing/PR department before it could be released. If you didn’t run it by them you could be disciplined, even fired – regardless of what you said. They stopped a bona fide blogging/podcasting effort dead in its tracks based on advice from the legal department. Here it is almost two years later and they still don’t blog or podcast.

    I didn’t leave them because of this alone but because of the executive mindset supporting these types of restrictive policies – and there were lots of them. Maybe the executive knew what they were doing – if your employees are feeling abused, you sure don’t want them talking about it on the web.

  16. Not aware of any explicit blogging policy (and I started and contribute to an internal, company-only blog). Blogging falls under general corporate information policy.

    Admittedly, I think it is because the company is generally unaware of the power of employees to express themselves in this manner.

  17. Well my company is just 2 people, but we definately support blogging and are blogging. When we hire more people, we will definately have a blogging & social media policy. We need to put more of an effort though 🙂


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