Corporate Social Media Policies: More is better or not so much?

Six years ago...six!...I started blogging and shortly after that started speaking at conferences about blogging as part of a recruiting strategy (or as I generally explain, an employment branding strategy, not a candidate generation strategy). Consistently, audience members were excited about the idea of blogging, but expressed great concern over whether they would be allowed to blog. Legal and PR were the presumed oppressors. Keeping the company from being sued and controlling the message. That's what that was all about.

My perspective has always been this:

-There's a conversation going on about your company, your brand, your product, your employees. You can choose to be part of it or not. If you ignore it, not only does it not go away, but has the potential to spin out of control. A little complaint about customer service turns into a snowball of discontent.

-Going off-topic is good. Imagine if you go out to dinner with a friend and all they talk about is work. And not really their opinions, but what they do; the intricacies of their debits and credits, or lines of code. Yeah, awesome. And also: zzzzzzzzzzz. Yeah, I might ask them a question about balancing my checkbook (OK, not really) or embedding video in sharepoint (OK, totally), but then I want to know what is going on in their lives. It's part of what I like about them.

And I think blogs are the same way. If blogs are conversations or relationships, you show up as a person. It's personality that keeps people coming back, for the most part.

When folks in the staffing industry started talking about recruiting blogs, a number of them popped up, almost all focused on the topic of recruiting. The bloggers were writing about recruiting to recruiters. Because that is where they felt comfortable. And it was totally beside the point. All that stuff is good(ish), but at least for me, wasn't what I was looking to do as part of my job. I wanted to spend my time talking to people about working here and giving them a little peek at my life. I wanted to dispel the "borg" perception and show people that I am not a robot, nor do I feel kinship with the cast of "Revenge of the Nerds." On some level, what I really wanted to do was tell the truth (well, I am a truth-teller and can't help it). I wanted to tell the truth about working here and I wanted to tell the truth about who I am. Because those things are intertwined. I also have to admit that I am an extemporaneous writer. I will do some looking up of stuff for blog posts now and then, but I wanted to stay away from blog posts where I had to present a well-researched piece of writing. I write from the gut.

So all of that is how I got here and why I do this. If you have been here for a while, you probably know a lot of this stuff. What made me think about it today is this article from FastCompany. In the past few years, the blogosphere (what ever happened to that word? I think it's off somewhere having drinks with "eCommerce"), has changed.  More companies are falling into the "get it" category; or the "have to get it" one. Well, kind of. Social media, blurry boundaries around work and life, blah-blah-blah.

I looked at these corporate policies and it really makes me wonder if I ever would have started blogging if I worked at some of these companies. I think that if companies want people to blog, they have to allow people to have a little fun and be real versus "sticking to their area of expertise". Blogs without some personal flavor aren't blogs, they are corporate websites. I do see companies and people make mistakes with their understanding of blogs versus company websites. Most notably, there's a "reporter" here in the Seattle area that works for a newspaper and writes opinion pieces. I'm not being snarky. "Reporter" is his title on his blog. And his blog sits on the newspaper's website. Two issues here: one is having opinion packaged as news on a corporate  site. The other is the dude's title. I think "writer" would be more appropriate. Put him in the editorial section, change his title, that's cool with me. But as it is now opinion ain't news and bloggers ain't journalists. Someone needs to pick a side. Just sayin'.

Other companies restrict their bloggers so much that a blogger gets through a few months of talking about the facts and then runs out of fodder. And dead blogs are sad. Dead blogs on your corporate website? Sadder.

Only once has someone given me a hard time for blogging about non-work stuff. I imagine he is off somewhere kicking puppies and pushing old ladies over. And not having a personality. Clearly, I was taking up space on his interwebz and he wanted it back.

So I guess this all leads me to a question. I've been working here for a while and have gotten used to being in the type of environment where you are encouraged to be real and have fun. ANd where blogging like this is seen as goodness. Looking at the social media policies in the article makes me think that companies, though not restricting blogging entirely, are still kind of uncomfortable letting their employees blog...yeah, "letting." I know there are a few notable blogger-blunders (which I think would have happened regardless of any policy), but are all these policies really necessary? In other companies, is there still fear over letting employees blog? And who is served by the policies? Are they rolled-out at the request of employees that want to know where they stand or is it about leadership trying to control the message?

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