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We’ve never really had a “social media” policy at Business Insider–we’ve just asked folks to use good judgment and have at it.And, generally, that non-policy policy has been successful: Some of our folks use Twitter and Facebook effectively, and, in so doing, they’ve helped build their own brands and followers and helped the company as well.
But as we’ve grown, we’ve also had some (thankfully very minor) frustrations with how some of our folks are using social media, so we thought it was time to set some ground rules and advice.
Given that this is an issue that every company and individual faces, I’m curious to hear your reactions.
Here’s the note I just sent around. Look forward to your thoughts.
We’ve had some kerfluffles/frustration lately with some individual tweeting practices, so I want to set down some basic rules and advice.
These may well change as we and the industry evolve, but they should provide a framework for thinking about the issue.
First and foremost:
Never forget that you work for Business Insider and, therefore, that anything you do at work or outside of work may reflect on Business Insider and be associated with Business Insider. So as much as we all want to think there’s a difference between “personal” and “business,” there just isn’t anymore.
This goes for all companies and organisations, obviously–not just us. A teacher who gets in a tweet-fight with a mistress may well get canned, whether or not the Tweeting had anything to do with the school or work (parents don’t like having their kids taught by people with no judgment or self-control). Those RIM execs who got drunk on a plane while not working got sacked. A CNN reporter got canned last year for a tweet that said something nice about the head of a terrorist organisation. And then there’s Anthony Weiner, et al.
Basically, you should assume that, if you work somewhere, everything you do may affect the organisation you work for and your status there.
So, in practice, what does that mean?
It means that you should assume that your whole Twitter persona and behaviour and tweets will reflect on us and you and be assumed to be sanctioned and supported by us (or anyone else you work for in the future).
And then there are other issues to be aware of, such as using our main Twitter accounts to respond to critics or get in Tweet-fights and Tweeting about stuff that happens in the newsroom. Don’t do either of these without explicit permission, please.
So here are the rules and advice…
Do not tweet about anything that is said or done or happens in our office without explicit permission. You would understandably be annoyed if you said or did something embarrassing or off-the-record in the office only to have a colleague instantly tweet about it (even using code like “OH”–“overheard.”) Given where you work, there’s no question where you “OH”ed something.) We should not all have to have our guard up all day long the way we would in an on-the-record interview with a journalist. So please just don’t do this.
Do not tweet photographs of colleagues or the newsroom or office without explicit permission. Same deal.
Don’t use our main (branded) Twitter accounts to respond to critics or get in Tweet-fights. If you want to engage in these personally, go ahead. But please recognise in advance that what you say will be associated with us and that most of these are insular journo-spats and a waste of time.
Be deliberate in everything you do. If you want to Tweet 60X an hour, ask yourself what that is accomplishing. (If the answer is “I like it–it’s fun,” that’s probably not good enough. I like playing tennis, and it’s fun, but I don’t serve balls against the newsroom wall all day.) If the answer is “It gets me more followers,” that’s better, though I would suggest that you actually might get more followers by saving your powder for fewer, better tweets. Most folks generally don’t like following people who never shut up (unless they really are super-smart, informative, and/or entertaining).
Remember that, at all times, everything you tweet will reflect not just on you but on us–so use your noggin and behave professionally. Does this mean you should NEVER tweet about personal stuff or your personal fascinations or hobbies, et al? No. But you should absolutely be aware of how it will be perceived if you tweet about all these things all day when people know you’re at work. (Namely, it will be perceived as your not working. And it may well also cause people who follow you because you tweet well about your area of expertise to un-follow you).
And now for some advice…
This is not a police state, and we do not judge your value and effectiveness by the amount of time you spend in your chair staring at your screen (i.e., face time). We judge your value and effectiveness on the quality, quantity, and success of your work. So if you can work effectively while listening to music on your headphones or checking email, Facebook, and Twitter every 30 seconds, that’s fine and that’s your business.
Just as you would probably not try to impress your bosses and colleagues with your dedication, focus, and work ethic by coming into the office at noon and then spending the whole afternoon playing ping-pong, you should understand that your bosses and colleagues (and potential future employers) are reading your tweets and forming conclusions about you based on them.
And just as you might be annoyed when you are busting your arse all day only to see folks on your team playing video games or debating philosophy for hours in the kitchen or going on about what an amazing album they’re listening to right now, you should understand that your bosses and colleagues will probably have a similar reaction if they see you tweeting about that stuff all day.
Namely, they will likely conclude, at least to some extent, “This person is un-focused and un-disciplined and professionally clueless.”
If that’s what you want your colleagues and bosses and potential future employers to conclude about you, by all means, tweet about philosophy or personal stuff or food or unrelated news all day–or spend hours engaged in public online “conversations” or spats that do nothing to help you or us produce better work.
But don’t be surprised when everyone who follows you concludes that, whatever you’re focused on, it isn’t your work.