Social Media Policy

I found the readings for this week really interesting. I’ve been looking forward to the subject of social media policy and planning, as I feel it is currently one of the most important issues for social media. It seems that more and more companies, organizations, and institutions are adopting social media tools into their everyday operations. However, I have the impression that this is done haphazardly without a solid foundation or infrastructure in place. I feel that without a plan or policy the implementation of social media runs a high risk of failure and/or a lack of buy-in. That is why I was so excited for this week; so I could find out some tips and strategies for designing a good social media policy.

Social Media and Privacy versus transparency:

Lauby (2009) in referring to Eric B. Meyer emphasizes transparency within a social media policy:

“Employers need to be upfront with employees that they have no right to privacy with respect to social networking. “Employers reserve the right to monitor employee use of social media regardless of location (i.e. at work on a company computer or on personal time with a home computer).”” (para. 6).

I have mixed opinions about this argument. On the one hand, I have heard countless times that one should approach social media with caution in regards to online etiquette and decorum. That is one should act online is as if your are in public. The reason for this is that current and potential employers and colleagues can often easily look at your social media activities online, and that many professional colleagues do indeed look.

In class we have had many discussions related to this. For instance many Facebook users clean-up their accounts after completing a undergraduate degree in order to eliminate any juvenile and embarrassing content that they would not want a potential employer to see.

On the other hand, I know many users view social media as a personal leisurely activity that is separate from work. I think it significantly depends on the line of work. Nonetheless, I find Meyer’s (in Lauby, 2009) argument that “Employers reserve the right to monitor employee use of social media regardless of location (i.e. at work on a company computer or on personal time with a home computer).”[bold emphasis added here]” (para. 6) extreme and unnecessary for a social media policy. It robs employees of independence, and forces them to always be on the clock.

However, my fear is that this is becoming the norm and accepted practice. Many young professionals increasingly treat social media as a professional career advancement tool. Thus, the persona projected through social media is a professional one rather than a personal one. If this trend continues, it won’t be a big leap for employers to control employee’s online behaviour around the clock. This is especially apparent as users are already voluntarily censoring themselves through a professional filter.

Social Media as a tool for Employee Recruitment and Evaluation:

Armano (2009) provides tips on how employers can analyze their employee’s or potential employee’s social media network. Armano (2009) suggests some questions employers should keep in mind including what they use social media for, e.g. “…promotion, work, play, etc.” (para. 2). Additionally, Armano asks “Also, how consistent are the threads? Do they come off the same in each network? Are they effective in each?” (para. 2). More specifically Armano states that: “Blogs are great for evaluating writing skills—and looking over things like comments or re-tweets may give you an idea if the candidate’s writings are getting traction in the community” (para. 3).

I found these questions were really helpful for those potential employees as well, as it will help them control their social media networks. Within social media policy, addressing these issues would be of benefit for organizations. In regards to the purpose of social media use, organizations should draft their policy according to their mission, vision, and values statements, as they will help determine the plausible purposes and functions of social media. Armano’s (2009) discussion of consistency is really important. I never gave the consistency throughout my network much thought, but I can see that it could really improve an outsider’s opinion of a social media network. Consistency shows that an organization has a strategy in place and it appears more professional. Lastly, your reach as seen in your entire network is very telling in terms of your popularity and influence. The great thing about social media is they are easily to monitor and evaluate. Armano (2009) suggests using Twitter Friends to determine the reach of your twitter account. I did mine for fun, but unfortunately and unsurprisingly I have practically no reach!

Jamien Sandhu's Twitter Friend Screen Shot

Social Media Policy and Online Etiquette:

Lauby (2009) and Meyer’s second assertion is excellent and reminds me of good old common sense and manners:

“Employees “should be made aware that company policies on anti-harassment, ethics and company loyalty extend to all forms of communication (including social media) both inside and outside the workplace.” People need to remember that bashing your organization/boss/co-workers online can lead to consequences at work.” (para. 7)

This refers to the online etiquette I mentioned earlier. Basically, it is never good to bash your organization, etc. in public! This is especially crucial for the world-wide arena of social media.

Social Media Policy–Ban it or Embrace it?:

In the beginning of Web 2.0, many companies saw social media as solely a personal leisurely distraction and chose to ban its use in the workplace altogether. For instance, many workplaces block Facebook to prevent employees accessing while at work. I think this practice is largely due to the newness of social media and society’s general lack of knowledge on the potential uses of social media within the workplace.

Lauby (2009) makes a great point:

“You wouldn’t take the phone or email from your employees, so why take social media away from them” (para. 9).”

I totally agree with this; employees should be mature and professional enough to limit their own use of social media in the workplace. If social media use negatively impacts an employee’s performance, then they should be reprimanded. Employees have the phone and email and yet still seem to get their work done. Thus, elimination of social media is not the answer. Rather an improved communication policy is the answer, in my opinion.

Lauby (2009) suggests that existing communications policy should be extended to include social media. I agree with Lauby’s logic in positioning social media on the same level of other communication media in respect to etiquette. Therefore, the social etiquette and decorum guidelines outlined in existing communication’s policies should be similarly extended to social media.

However, I believe that social media requires a unique policy or strategy due to its conversational and wide reach nature. Social media and Web 2.0 are new concepts and operate in significantly different ways than previous communications media. They instantly create networks with other networks. The immensity and rapidity of that growth requires its own individual planning and development in order to optimally serve an organization.

Social Media Policy– Library Examples and Tips:

Kroski (2009) provides numerous useful tips on what elements should be included in a social media policy, including:

  • using a disclaimer (for personal social media accounts),
  • not sharing secrets,
  • being transparent about your identity in regards to professional social media accounts,
  • respecting copyright,
  • respecting colleagues,
  • avoiding online fights,
  • posting accurate information,
  • consulting the employee manual,
  • using good judgement,
  • providing value,
  • accepting responsibility about your online actions (para. 10-20).

An example provided for the UT Southwestern Library Social Media Policy follows Kroski’s (2009) direction, but focuses on the following elements:

  • being transparent
  • writing what you know
  • taking responsibility,
  • and respecting the law (UT Southwestern Library, 2009).

In another example from the Washoe County Library System, Haskell (2007) emphasizes the importance of specifically stating the library’s position on online content. For instance the Washoe County Library System  will remove:

  • Obscene or racist content
  • Personal attacks, insults, or threatening language
  • Potentially libelous statements
  • Plagiarized material
  • Private, personal information published without consent
  • Comments totally unrelated to the content of the forum
  • Hyperlinks to material that is not directly related to the discussion
  • Commercial promotions or spam (Haskell, 2007, para. 7).

It is important to put these specific stipulations into the policy to avoid future grey areas of acceptable content. These elements all seem apt for removal from a library social media site, except for “Comments totally unrelated to the content of the forum” and “Hyperlinks to material that is not directly related to the discussion” (Haskell, 2007, para. 7). My aversion relates to a larger issue for social media: the dialogue versus the monologue approach of communication. Social media allows for a dialogue between the library and the user. As the library assists with learning and increasing knowledge, if a user feels inspired and wants to take the discussion in a different direction, the library might benefit from allowing and encouraging that type of social media behaviour. If the library removes any posts by users that are not directly related to the original content, then the users may feel rejected and might become upset. This is not to say discriminatory material shouldn’t be removed, but it is to say that the specific wording of these two elements are too vague and thus might hinder the potential of this social media program. That said these policy elements appear in most of the examples that the Haskell (2007) lists, including the Newton Free Library Blog Policy and the LITA Blog Policy.

I hope this is just the early fad for social media policy and future policies will provide for a more open dialogue between library and user.

Social Media Adoption:

In regards to getting employees to embrace social media Clarke (2011) offers a three prong guide:

  1. “Find a social-media “point person” and cultivate that person’s reach and influence so it extends to both the marketing and public-relations teams” (Clarke, 2011, para. 2). Clarke (2011) suggests using an insider because they already know the ins and outs of the business.
  2. “Use analytics data to help tell a cohesive story about return on investment that’s driven by joint marketing and public-relations efforts” (para. 6). I briefly talked about this during the discussion about Twitter Friends and evaluating the reach of a social media network.
  3. “Infuse social media into every facet of the business, starting with public relations” (Clarke, 2011, para. 9).

It is interesting that Clarke (2011) states that you need to make social media integral to all parts of a business, yet he also states that the implementation must be at the hands of one point person. That seems like an immense responsibility for one person! I wonder how and if that can realistically be accomplished.


Armano, David. (2009, July 13). How to evaluate social media street cred. Logic + Emotion. Retrieved from

Clarke, David. (2011, September 27). Three ways to maximize return on your investment in social media: most important, get the public relations and marketing teams on the same page. AdvertisingAge. Retrieved from

Haskell, Jami. (2007, November 5). Create a social software policy for your library. Retrieved from

Kroski, Ellyssa. (2009, October 1). Should your library have a social media policy? School Library Journal. Retrieved from

Lauby, Sharlyn. (2009, April 27). Should your company have a social media policy? Mashable. Retrieved from

UT Southwestern Library. (2009, July 15). UT Southwestern Library social media policy. Retrieved from


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