Social Media Policies: When Are They Taken Too Far?

Lauren Riley
Lauren Riley Social Media Marketing Manager, Bubble Jobs

Posted on August 28th 2014

Social Media Policies: When Are They Taken Too Far?

During my time at Bubble Jobs, I’ve commented on social media policies and focused on the importance of having one implemented for your employees.

However, sometimes these policies can be taken too far and can result in negative PR for the business in question.

This is exactly what happened when a lecturer at the University of Leeds spoke out about her experience when working for the institution. Speaking to Times Higher Education last week, she revealed that she’d been told by the “Webmaster” at the university to remove tweets about the policies of Home Secretary Theresa May because she wasn’t allowed to post political tweets (despite her being a reader in law?!) in case someone misconstrued them as the views of the university.

The university eventually backed down after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing via email and allowed McCartney to carry on tweeting, with the proviso that she removed the name of the university from her Twitter profile, but after McCartney pointed out that anyone could find out who she was with a quick Google search, the university then settled for a “views are my own” disclaimer on her profile page.

This whole episode uncovered the fact that some universities in the UK have pretty old fashioned social media policies which stop staff from tweeting anything that “could damage the university’s reputation” in the case of Edinburgh Napier University or that stop staff from communicating with former students in the case of the University of Kent.

In this day and age, businesses can’t afford to use social media to control the free speech of their employees – it’s just not practical and will only result in a nightmare PR situation and disgruntled employees.

Social media is a powerful tool for building a business’ brand, but one that should be approached with caution, and that caution extends to your employees’ personal social media use.

Thoughtless tweets can damage a company’s reputation, but it’s a fine line between advising on social media use and controlling how your employees communicate outside of working hours.

A policy should cover things like not publicly criticising the company, including a disclaimer in your public social media profiles stating that the views are your own and not those of the company as well as not sharing confidential business information online, whether that be on a public or private social media account.

One mistake to avoid is trying to control what your employees discuss on social media, especially if it’s not related to the business and they include a disclaimer in their profile biographies. This is taking the whole social media policy too far and puts your business in a very sticky situation when it comes to free speech, employee rights and even human rights.

In a nutshell, keep your social media policy simple, and don’t try to exercise too much control over your employees; otherwise it’ll blow up in your face!

What do you think about the university social media policies? Old fashioned and out of touch or necessary and effective?

As always, let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @BubbleJobs

Lauren Riley

Lauren Riley

Social Media Marketing Manager, Bubble Jobs

I look after all things social for niche digital jobs board Bubble Jobs and contribute to the Bubble Jobs Blog!

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