The discussions about social media policies moved from the “nice-to-have” guidelines to the necessary legalistic, corporate documents a few years ago. Most companies who engage in social media now have some type of policy outlining guidelines and expected behavior from their employees. Some brands have a link to their policies from their Facebook “About” tabs.
The need for having an internal social policy is simple: it reduces risk. In reality, the social policy is most likely a variation on other internal, employee documents. One advantage it does have is that it clearly states what behavior is allowed and forbidden in specific social channels.
Legal teams like social policies. Social media scares them to start with, so having some type of protection is necessary for them. It’s also a good for all of the employees. The clearer companies are with their employees, the fewer misunderstandings and mistakes will happen in the social channels. Social policies won’t stop all poor behavior. But they will cause some people to pause and think before they act socially. And if companies need to take disciplinary action, employees can’t say they haven't been warned.
Do all companies need a social media policy? Maybe. But there are certain types of companies that do themselves a disservice by not having one.
Take HubSpot, for example. HubSpot is one of the bright social media stars out of Boston. It’s seen strong growth and has assembled one of the best teams of social media thinkers in the country. It offers a suite of inbound marketing tools along with training and is a boon for both newbie social companies and more mature ones. It’s one of the reasons we at the #BTVSMB invited Rick Burnes to come to Burlington a few years back.
Which is why I was quite surprised to see this pop-up online in a comment stream:
It made me wonder: Does HubSpot, who teaches others how to act socially, have a social policy themselves? Here is a clearly self identified HubSpot employee, a supposed social media pro, talking about minors and “Over The Pants Hand Jobs.” Posting on company time no less.
Now maybe I missed the post where some of my social media favorites like Laura Fitton, Dan Zarella and Brian Halligan, all HubSpot gurus and some of the smartest people in the business, write about social media masturbation (although you could make the case that this IS what social media is all about. But that’s another post.). I can’t remember them tweeting about encouraging employees to make highly inappropriate comments with the brand name attached.
Actually I’ll bet the opposite is true, given the recent examples from Chrysler and Kitchen Aid.
The super smart Mike Volpe wrote an opinion piece a few years ago arguing that having a social media policies was stupid . I think Mike only got it half right that time. You need to hire smart people AND have a social policy. I think Brian Halligan’s gang went 0 for 2 this time.
Insurance companies are risk averse industry sector. That’s an understatement. Their business is based on risk avoidance. That might be one of the reasons why many of them have been late to online and social media.
Yet in that same comment stream referenced above, there are comments from an employee of William Gallagher Associates, a company who describes themselves as “a leading provider of insurance brokerage, risk management and employee benefit services to companies with complex risks and dynamic needs.”
In the comments the young man expresses great support for the risky behavior of underage and binge drinking. Now, I’m not an insurance guy but shouldn’t they be promoting less risk, not more? While the guy is not as easily identifiable as a William Gallagher Associates employee as the HubSpot guy, it doesn’t take much effort to find out, or to see that he too is commenting on company time.
I’ve worked with a few insurance companies in Massachusetts and I know it’s a tough, competitive environment. I’m not sure promoting binge, underage drinking is the right brand message for William Gallagher Associates. Insurance companies place a great emphasis on building trust between their sales people and their customers. Maybe saying impetous comments builds trust for some people. But I’d rather not buy my insurance from someone like that.
WGA does participate in social media: they have a very good blog, a small Twitter presence and a pretty good Web site. I bet that they don’t have a social policy either. As a risk management company, they probably should.
I may be missing something though. WGA CEO Philip Edmundson also tweets under the name PoliticsOfObesity. It's a great stream, by the way. Could it be that he's starting a new focus, Politics of Binge Drinking, and using some of his staff for research?
None of this really comes close to the Chrysler debacle. Maybe I am picking on HubSpot, but it’s only because they’re big guns that can take it. But both of these comments are so off brand as to raise some serious questions.
What do you think?
[If you want to actually dig into the comment stream I reference put on your waders because there’s a lot of garbage there. Another example of how broken online newspapers comment sections are.]