Organizational vs Individual representation in social media (2009)

Jeff Jarvis recently addressed the Wall Street Journal’s policies on employees and social media and it got a lot of buzz (no pun intended as the name of his blog is BuzzMachine).

His brief post is linked here.

There were other posts in the blogosphere about it as well. Here’s another one by Gina Chen.

In a nutshell, the Wall Street Journal is saying that it does not want its employees mixing business and pleasure. If in doubt over posting a tweet, their employees should send it to their editor to be reviewed.

This is in contrast to the L.A. Times policy: assume your professional and personal life merge online regardless of your care in separating them. Don’t write or post anything that would embarrass the L.A. Times or compromise your ability to do your job. Assume everything you write and receive on a social media site is public and knowable with everyone that has access to a computer. (Thanks to the For Immediate Release Podcast #450 for that info).

Social media is still relatively new and everyone is still trying to establish rules for the workplace as they go along.

I would generally fall into the L.A. Times opinion of how to conduct business, except if your Twitter handle or blog is the official one of your organization.

As an example, my two twitter accounts represent me and only me, but I tweet about both work and occasionally personal items as well.

Someone who follows a corporate blog or twitter account does so because that organizations information is important. On the other hand, the majority of blogs, Twitter and Facebook accounts are for an individual and people who follow them usually do so because of the person posting.

So my two cents are to decide how you want to represent yourself online, either as an individual or as the organization.

If as an individual, say whatever you want.

If as an organization, remember that the account is official so posts should be official in nature. If you are representing yourself as an individual of an organization, use some common sense and don’t write anything that would embarrass your organization.

For all of the above, I wouldn’t write or post anything on any site that you wouldn’t be comfortable having read by just about everyone you know because it can be read by everyone you know.

Mike Nicholson

I've spent my career working in a variety of Strategic Communications, Public Relations, Public Affairs, Information Operations, and Executive Outreach positions. With a history of planning, preparing, executing, and assessing communication strategies in the U.S. and abroad, I use this site to write, think and share lessons learned on organizational communications.

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