Personal or Professional? Where is the Social Media Line Drawn?

The saying goes: Once it’s on the Internet, it’s out there forever.

With the rise of social media, that statement rings even louder. As organizations continue to implement social media strategies for business, the line between an employee’s personal and professional lives is getting more and more blurred.

Governor Jerry Brown signed into law two privacy bills, that prohibit employers, universities employees, and university representatives from requiring or even requesting the log-in information for the social media accounts of their employees, prospective employees, students, prospective students, or student groups.

Employers are barred from firing or disciplining those who refuse to give up any information related to these types of accounts.

Of course, this is just one angle of the personal/professional social media conundrum. The other is the danger that one ill-formed tweet or post by an employee can lead to a massive crisis —both for the individual and the company he or she works for.

Because of this danger, social media policies have become commonplace in hopes of preventing an unwanted crisis due to a perceived lapse in judgment. As social media becomes even more of the everyday job description for communicators, initiatives, training and social policies are essential to protect an organization’s reputation.

At this year's PR Digital PR Summit,  Ashley Howland, social media manager for Baylor Health Care System, Beth Haiken, senior VP at Ogilvy Public Relations and Tom Becktold, senior VP at Business Wire, highlighted three ways to protect your brand with social guidelines: 

  • Protect Your Employees: The first reason to have a social media policy is to protect your employees. When creating or updating a social media policy, Howland said you need to create a committee, and don't be afraid to reach out to your competitors for their insights. "The National Labor Relations Board just came out with new guidelines for social media, however, someday social media policies may go away as it becomes part of everyday life," said Howland. "In your social media policy identify who your company spokespeople are, and make your social media policy fits your culture."  
  •  A Matter of Social Strategy: Haiken said designing guidelines still comes down to your social strategy. "You have to think about what your purpose is. Who do you want to reach? What’s your elevator speech? That’s what you want to share about your company," said Haiken. You have to make it your business to find out what your company’s true business goals are.
  • Tweetable Twitter Policy: Haiken's favorite social media policy is one that can fit within 140 characters. Be professional, kind, discreet, authentic. Represent us well. Remember that you can’t control it once you hit “update.”

Follow Jamar Hudson: @jamarhudson