Lives Clashing Online: The Importance of a Social Media Policy

Employees' Social Media Activities under the magnifying glassLiveJournal. Friendster. Myspace. Facebook. Early on, social media sites began as online outlets allowing people to express themselves and connect with their friends. It was intriguing, it was experimental, and above all, it was classified personal. Over the years it’s become evident just how public our social media activities are. Recently, a New York Times reporter was reminded of how personal and professional lives are clashing online, by being assigned a social media babysitter.”

The Jerusalem Bureau Chief for the nation’s most prominent newspaper repeatedly posted messages on her public Facebook profile that her employer found to be problematic. As a result, she will now work closely with an editor on her social media posts.

According her New York Times editor, Margaret Sullivan, “The idea is to capitalize on the promise of social media’s engagement with readers while not exposing The Times to a reporter’s unfiltered and unedited thoughts.”

Watching what we say is not a new topic, but certainly one that bears repeating, as more companies are tracking what their employees post online.

As the employee, it’s important to know your company’s social media policy. If they don’t have a policy – ask for one.  Also remember that anything you say online can be tied back to your company, whether you like it or not. Platform Magazine, which included commentary from DVL in its latest issue, advises that before posting on social media to ask yourself, “Would you want your boss to read this?

As the employer, make sure you have a social media policy in place. From creating these for various clients, DVL knows policies can vary from industry to industry and company to company, so it’s not advised to “borrow” one you find online. There are many factors to consider, such as how an individual engages in social media for a company, how individuals engage in social media on company and personal time, as well as how the National Labor Relations Act and employees’ rights affects a social media policy.

Social networking has evolved from its beginnings and continues to grow, but one thing often holds true online and off – think about what you’re going to say before you say it.

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Social Media when #NaturalDisasters Strike

CDC’s Office of Public Health Twitter: @CDCReady

After tornadoes tore across the Midwest this week, we were reminded once again that the impending arrival of spring means severe weather is on the way. But as it’s been shown through recent disasters, social media continues to play a large role in communicating within disaster-stricken communities and disseminating information to the public during times of crisis.

This past Tuesday after a tornado struck Harrisburg, Ill., the first thing I did was check Facebook to see how a friend had fared. She had updated her page that she had survived (even though her home had not) and within hours, friends were organizing care packages and making plans to help her out, all on her Facebook page.

During one of the largest tornado outbreaks last spring, social media allowed people to do just that: check in on one another – especially since phones lines were down – and in some instances, locate people who were injured and needed assistance.

So what does this mean for us?

How we should use social media if and when a natural disaster strikes:

First, check out your local government and emergency management groups. Are they on Facebook or Twitter? If they are, follow them. You never know when a tornado or other act of God may hit and if you can stay on your phone, it might be easiest to get your updates from the officials via mobile alerts.

An example of the significance of social media during disasters, the CDC has a “Social Media: Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse” website to prepare people in the event of a “zombie apocalypse” or other possible disaster.  The site includes a survival guide, suggested emergency kit contents, emergency plan instructions and a downloadable badge for social networking profiles.

Just as we advise clients in preparation of a crisis, we too should have a plan. How will you connect with family and friends? Is there an agreed-upon place to meet post-disaster? Having a kit with essential supplies can also be helpful. And speaking of supplies…

It sounds simple, but do you keep your cell phone and laptop fully charged?  Make it a habit to plug them in every night before bed. And if you can, buy an extra charger to include in your emergency kit.

As seen during last summer’s East Coast earthquake, social media tools like Twitter will continue to be utilized to their full ability when the next disaster strikes. So remember, if you choose to do so, using social media can be a powerful tool to use during times of emergency, and could end up being your lifeline.

Social Media or Email?

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The debate over social media replacing email is one that continues to gain momentum. While many, including the Wall Street Journal, claim that “email no longer rules,” others disagree and are offering their own studies to back their conclusions.

Like most things, it’s really all in how you look at the numbers – and both sides have compelling arguments.

Social-networking supporters point to statistics published in a recent Nielson survey that social site users have passed the 300 million mark (fueled largely by the ridiculous growth of Twitter 1,382% and Facebook 228% which combined represent 72 million) in comparison to only 276 million email users. While email faithful are quick to point out the social growth represents dozens of network sites while email is, well, simply email.

WebProNews recently published a compelling top 10 list of why social media is not replacing email. My personal favorite being “email notifies us of updates to our social network sites.” Tough to argue that one. Conversely, Mashable posted a story that claims, “social media member community growth has exceeded email” – by a whopping 1.7%. But wait, there’s more. Exact Target just released a survey claiming consumers use email more often than both social media and texting.

Confused yet? Me too. The fact is both platforms will continue to evolve. And supporters of both platforms will continue to offer statistics that favor their theories.

As for me, I offer this simple question… If social media is truly becoming more powerful than email, then why do I see a spike in my blog statistics every time I send an email notification of an update? Hmmmmm….

Oh yeah, did I mention Business Week’s article questioning if Google Wave could replace both Email AND Facebook? Here we go again.