Does Your Company Have a Twitter “Fair-Use” Policy?

twitter-bird Now that the line between business and personal use of Social Media is becoming almost completely blurred, how do you know when you may be crossing it?  The Social Media revolution is upon us, and very few will have failed to notice that it has been colonised by business, large and small, across national borders, and often beyond legislation.  Individuals and companies now have a multitude of accounts on Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Bebo, Youtube etc etc.  So do I “Follow” my company account on …Twitter, or become a “Fan” of my company on Facebook? Maybe I should give my company a recommendation on Linkedin, and start a group for current and former employees, and/ or clients.  Whenever I broadcast my views on Twitter, should I add that “these views do not necessarily represent the views of the company”?  I probably shouldn’t use the company logo for my Twitter avatar in that case.

Not so very long ago, I had to write a “Fair Use Policy” for my company, where it had to be spelled out in black and white the precise use for which company computers and internet access could be put to, and what constituted private use of company email accounts.  My own view was that whatever you do with the company’s computers, is done in the company’s name.  Of course it’s now commonplace for individuals to search for job whilst at work, and whilst most would do so discreetly, I don’t believe a company could sanction an employee for doing so; whilst on a break, for example.

Now that the Social Media revolution has become so much a part of business life, are we working when we Tweet?  Are we representing our firm’s interests at all times?  Not so long ago, the only people to speak on behalf of a large employer were senior management, or the MD in person.  Now that we find so many people “representing” the views of a company, it becomes ever more difficult to be speaking from the same hymn sheet.  Where the structure of communication is becoming ever more fluid, are new conventions being established? I know at least one very progressive internet technology company which has barred the use of Twitter altogether.  Equally, there are many companies where much of the day is taken up with idle unproductive chatter on MyFacedinTube.

I have no definitive answers, and perhaps each company will develop its own way of doing things.  For now, its maybe best to work and personal social networking separate, and search for jobs on your iPhone at break-time.

Stephen O’Donnell

PS.  mashable120x39: 20% Increase in Companies Blocking Social Media Sites