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.
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.)