(Ed. Note: I wrote this, sat on it while I considered it and, while I was doing that, Biro wrote essentially the same thing for PRWeek. That’s what I get for 1) Having smart friends and 2) sitting on my hinder. –Chris)
Everyone’s talking about corporate Twitter (and larger social networking) policies the last 24 hours so let’s see where we are in the conversation right now.
The U.S. Marine Corps has banned for one year access to Twitter, MySpace, Facebook and other social networks out of a fear that they could open up the military network to threats of information exposure.
ESPN has been catching (unduly, I think) flack for reports about a policy that many thought would limit employee tweets to only those that serve ESPN business needs. Turns out it’s a bit more complicated than that (isn’t it always?) and that there was some language in their memo that might have been overly restrictive, but they wanted to make sure people weren’t talking out of line about sports related news and topics, an area that directly impacts ESPN’s business.
Finally, Izea has launched a Sponsored Tweets business to connect advertisers with people with a sizable and targeted Twitter following. The only thing surprising about this is that it took so long to get officially rolled out since there have been one-off experiments along these lines for the last year or so by other players and companies.
Twitter keeps growing and has redesigned its homepage not only to emphasize search (the area everyone keeps focusing on as we run toward real-time information and it’s refreshing lack of context) but to give first-time visitors a better idea of what’s going on and convert more folks into consistent users. The company even launched a Twitter 101 guide for businesses looking to get the most out of the service.
While a guide like this is great, it’s still up to each and every user – whether personal or corporate – to suss out for itself how it’s going to best use Twitter and what it’s specific employee guidelines are going to be.
And that’s where I’m going to go ahead and disagree with much of the “sigh” and “they’re wrong” commentary about both the Marine Corps and ESPN. I get the thinking behind the military not wanting to unnecessarily expose its network to attacks. If there’s one industry I think is right for not wanting to take any more risks than it absolutely has to, it’s that one. There’s probably a work-around – I’ve heard reports they’re looking into offering computers that aren’t connected to the rest of the network that soldiers could use – and they’ll probably find it.
ESPN, for its part, has clarified its policy a bit and made it clear it simply wants to make sure employees aren’t crossing any lines that shouldn’t be crossed. We can debate these but they’re not inherently or overtly “bad” as some people have labeled them.
It’s important to remember that, despite the hype and despite the length of time that some people have been using it, Twitter is still relatively new. So companies and working on how to integrate it into their overall communications plans (indeed the best ones are part of a bigger plan and not just one-off efforts). But the best policies are also worked out in conjunction with employees and are part of a good *internal* communications plan, as I’ve previously stated.
So Twitter, blog and other social media guidelines are dependent on both internal and external communications. Companies have to have a dialogue established with employees. That last part is often – wrongly – overlooked when hashing these things out, a process that can take time and may not wind up in the same place it starts out in and should certainly be open to evolving over time.