I’m Not Going to Sign Your Social Media Policy

John_Hancock_Signature_DOIFor a little context, a few years ago, I wrote a post about how you shouldn’t have a social media policy for your organization. In it, I said:

My point is that however you’d treat the employee in a similar real life situation is how you should treat them when it comes to social media. There are very few truly unique situations when it comes to social media and then it goes back to my point about not making policies for a handful of employees or possibilities.

And about a year ago, I wrote a post about how these social media disclaimers (i.e. “My views do not represent that of my employer”). In it, I said:

I’ll tell you what that disclaimer means in the real world: jack squat. Only, at least on Twitter, I never can tell people how ridiculous the whole disclaimer actually is in 140 characters without sounding like a jerk. And also because this statement is ridiculous for a wide variety of reasons, all of which need to be further explained.

Trish McFarlane asked me if my views have changed on social media policies in the last few years. Succinctly, the answer is no. I’m not going to go all, “let’s fight the man” on this one but I, for one, will not be signing any social media policy. I would recommend most people do the same.

Now that’s a bit tougher if it is embedded into a handbook, obviously. As a former HR head, I also wouldn’t necessarily advocate just breaking those rules because social media policies are dumb.

Then again, you should probably break those rules anyway.

I don’t know if anyone has ever been fired for a pure social media policy violation. I have to believe it is pretty rare. What policies like this help with is:

  • Getting people with hard-to-pin-down performance issues onto a performance improvement plan with greater ease
  • Firing people who probably needed to be fired anyway for a variety of reasons
  • Getting people on the boss’ shit list closer to the firing line
  • Firing people who were egregiously awful on social media (who – policy or not – would have been fired anyway)
  • Firing people who violated other guidelines already covered (NDAs and confidentiality agreements)

If that’s how you want to operate, you can do all of that without a social media policy. In fact, many organizations pull it off with great frequency. But can we be real?  If you’re having issues with people using social media in your organization, a policy is a super ineffective prescription. As I said in my social media post, education should always be the top priority for those who want to be a visible presence online. And you should stop hiring people that you would be worried about getting online and actually saying the words that come into their minds.



  1. I’m not going to sign your social media policy and I sure as hell won’t show you my FB or Twitter during an interview process, like some are asking now. Unless I am using the corporate account, what I say to my friend, family and followers is not my boss’s business. That being said, I very rarely friended people at work previously. Now I’m at a startup with 3 other very cool ladies, so it’s not an issue. But to me, not friending coworkers is part of my work/life balance. They don’t need to see pics of me table-dancing, etc.

  2. I don’t believe in “social media policies” either, but I do believe in presenting yourself in public in a way that reflects well on your employer. Social networks are about as public as it gets, and I would most definitely fire someone for slamming a client on their personal social account. (For example.)

    Dominique, the line you’re drawing on personal and professional when it comes to social media is a completely illusory one. “Internet privacy” is an oxymoron, and whether you choose to friend the people you work with or not, you should assume that they could see anything and everything you post and filter accordingly.

  3. I agree about slamming clients. That’s obviously over the line. That is WORK.

    The line I’m drawing is not illusory because it’s not about privacy. It’s about my brain and shutting off work from time to time. It’s about WORK vs. PERSONAL. For example, I post primarily work things on my Twitter and am following/followed by mostly fellow people in the same field.

    My FB, which I use much less, is NOT WORK. It’s where I tell people how cute their babies are and remember dumb stuff from high school. Occasionally I argue about politics. I very rarely discuss anything work-related there except to maybe share an exceptionally interesting article or two. No, I didn’t want former coworkers to see me table-dancing (which I have never done in my life, BTW), but also…they are WORK. We were friendly at work, but they were my work sphere and I left that behind when I left work. That’s less the case now.

    I would never post anything to any social network that I wouldn’t be comfortable with my parents, my coworkers or my employer seeing. But sometimes (in the past), I didn’t want them to comment and I didn’t want to feel obligated to talk to them ‘after hours’ either.

  4. Pretty! This was an incredibly wonderful article. Many thanks for supplying these details.

  5. Thanks for writing this update Lance. When you originally stated your feelings about social media policy, I was onboard. A few years later, I still believe that orgs already have policies in place that can address professionalism, privacy and standards of communication without a direct Social Media Policy. Nice to see some people don’t cave. :)

  6. Great article all around, Lance. Especially regarding education vs. policy-making. Rampant policy-making is often just pure laziness.

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