Is Social Media Policy an Oxymoron?

3 minute read


The best one word definition or synonym I can come up with for ‘social’ is gregarious. Social, now an acceptable contraction for sociable, is, by its definition, somewhat flexible and random. Are policies that are predicated on putting form and structure around social media activities therefore oxymoronic?

In my opinion, the value in a social network is the network, not the medium. If that is true, should the emphasis be more on networking skills than on social media policies? Accepting the prevalence of social media outlets, and the ease of access fostered by technology, accelerates the conversation, are we not just engaging in so many virtual cocktail parties, conferences, recruiting fairs, parties or trade shows in the Social Universe?

If that is the case, then perhaps the emphasis should be on etiquette, or best practice, and less on policy or controls. When you meet that bore at the cocktail party who immediately tries to engage you in conversation about how he can help you in your business, don’t you immediately quickly make your excuses and look for another conversation?

Most successful practitioners in business spend a lot of their time continuously learning about their subject matter, listening intently to customers, researching analyst coverage, and exploring competitor activities. Only then do they take to the podium to present their perspective; all the time recognizing it’s a perspective and not a gospel or mantra to be hurled at the unsuspecting masses.

Companies looking to govern the usage by their employees of various social media tools, establishing rules for engagement are missing the point. More emphasis placed on social etiquette, the value of sustained self-education and investment in networks would be a lot more valuable for many social network users.

I will say it again. The value is in the network, and the goodwill that you develop in the network. If your employees don’t invest their time in listening, learning and contributing in real-world networks or communities, then they will gain little in return. Why would it be any different in the virtual world? There are basic principles at the core of successful (real or virtual) networking. Mostly these principles revolve around good manners, etiquette, giving before you get, contributing without expecting return, and building a bank of goodwill.

I start most days using Flipboard on my iPad to peruse my social networks. (By the way, if you have an iPad and don’t use Flipboard – you have a joyous experience to uncover. Actually I’d go so far as to say that Flipboard on its own justifies the iPad for me.) I follow some really smart people and I learn something everyday that informs my professional activity. If I come across something that I think will be of value to my network then I will post or tweet. Sometimes someone reaches out to me asking for help, and the Social Universe has enabled me to virtually meet many more people that I could otherwise have encountered. If I’m struggling with something I feel that I can ask for help. It’s a privilege I treasure – just like I treasure my real-world network.

I’m not sure how to write a policy for that.



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