Telstra releases social media policy: it’s time for organizations to get their act together


This morning’s Sydney Morning Herald displayed a prominent headline Telstra lays down the law on Twitter. The article began:

Telstra has become the first major Australian company to set down guidelines on the use of Facebook, Twitter and similar websites by its employees.

First? According to whom? As noted by Stephen Collins, the Australian Public Service Commission publicly announced protocols for online media participation in December. A number of major Australian companies have established guidelines for social media, they just didn’t issue press releases about it as Telstra has.

In any case, Telstra’s social media policy a solid document and it’s good that Telstra has both created it and released it publicly. (See the social media policy itself and the blog post launching it.) Companies that have not addressed these issues are essentially creating a liability out of what could be a strong positive for the organization.

The extensive background to the announcement (including all the fun and games of @fakestephenconroy) is given in an article on ITNews titled Telstra staff given rules on use of social networks. In the article I am quoted:

Ross Dawson, chairman of social networking analyst group Advanced Human Technologies, described Telstra’s new policy as “solid and straightforward.”

“While other Australian organisations have implemented social media policies, Telstra is one of the first companies to make it public. The release of its policy is none too soon, given the issues Telstra has faced recently,” he said.

“Hopefully Telstra’s move will prompt more Australian companies to establish social media policies. Given the reality of employees being active on Facebook, Twitter, and blogs, it is essential that clear guidelines are set to make this activity useful, not dangerous.”

Our Implementing Enterprise 2.0 report includes an extensive chapter on Setting Policies, including detailed coverage of five Principles for External Social Media:

1. Existing policies can do a lot of the work

2. Policies are to guide behaviour – they are not legal documents

3. Establish personal responsibility

4. Encourage quality work

5. Address productivity and revenue

The really critical issue is that policies are a tool for governance. The governance process comes first, and out of that effective policies are easily established. (The Chapter on Governance in Implementing Enterprise 2.0 is available for free download.)

The focus in Telstra’s social media policy on Representing, Responsibility and Respect is entirely appropriate, and in line with these principles.

While this is all too late coming, hopefully organizations are beginning to understand that employee use of social media is a reality, and that the risks and opportunities of their employees engaging online need to be addressed. That need not be a difficult task. As noted in the principles above, if there are solid policies in place already it may just be an issue of recommunicating these effectively so people understand what is and is not appropriate. It is time for organizations to get their act together.