Social networking policy design tips for your organization

Planning to draft a social networking policy for your organization? These pointers will prove useful when making an effective social networking policy

Social networking is the latest buzzword for the CIO, but it may not be music to his ears, if a social networking policy is not in place in his organization. Since today's employee has grown used to free Internet access, restricting the social networking environment is a challenge for any CIO. At the same time, the impact of such sites has prompted many organizations to come out with a social networking policy applicable to these sites. Here are some pointers that you should keep in mind before drafting a social networking policy.

Don't be too restrictive: One has to unmistakably state and define the company's philosophy toward social networking sites. The social networking policy should clearly classify the sites that serve as business tools. When you draw the lines, you cannot ignore the fact that if the social networking policy becomes too restrictive, it might not bring in the expected results. Rather than just cracking the whip, the organization should make its employees aware of the sensitivity of the matter.

Brand depiction: The social networking policy has to clearly state the way your organization as a brand is depicted on the public platform. There should be an unambiguous definition of 'social networking site' because it can be interpreted differently by different individuals. The social networking policy document should mention the dos and don'ts with regard to the sharing of company-related information by the employee while communicating on these sites. It should be made clear that any views expressed on these sites would be only the individual's views, and would not be considered to be the organization's position. One cannot simply afford to loosen the noose here.

Social networking sites are here to stay, and will gradually evolve as business tools. The only way to deal with them is to deal with them rather than shun them completely.
Disciplinary action: There can be cases where a frustrated employee vents his anger in public, and causes serious damage to the company's image. Sometimes the loss is irreversible, and it could result in monetary fines and legal implications for the company. In such situations, timely action and a disciplinary stand would help control the cascading effect it would have on other employees.
Standard practices: The social networking policy should be treated like the organization's standard conduct policy. The rules and regulations of the social networking policy document should be adhered to as strictly as the rules and regulations of any other policy of the company, thereby assuring control of the situation. There should be clear guidance on dos and don'ts, as with a normal conduct policy document.

Legal implications: The social networking policy should remind employees that any misuse of these sites which directly or indirectly show the organization in poor light could have legal implications. The possible consequences have to be plainly stated.
Having said that, remember that social networking sites are here to stay, and that they will gradually evolve as business tools. The only way to deal with them is to deal with them rather than shun them completely, because they can affect both employees as well as the business. The real challenge lies in how the CIO balances the advantages and disadvantages of these sites.

About the author: Satish Pendse is the chief information officer of Hindustan Construction Company.

(As told to Snigdha Karjatkar.)

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