“I think my boss smells funny” and other things you do not want your employees to share online

Posted on oktober 18, 2011


Onderstaande tekst schreef ik een hele tijd terug voor één van onze internationale publicaties. Ik deel deze graag met jullie voor feedback en ter informatie.

On the importance of social media guidelines 

More than one company has been surprised by the vocalism of its employees via online and social media channels. An entertainment company found many details about their soon-to-be-announced show on a personal blog of one of its employees.

In the aviation industry, an airline company had its stewards complain about smelly passengers on Facebook. While the second example turned into an online and offline PR-disaster, the manager of the first company was able to limit the damage by quick interaction with the employee.

Both examples could have been avoided if these companies had provided guidance for their employees. Research in April 2011 by LEWIS PR in Belgium showed that only one in four companies interviewed has some kind of social media guidelines. Yet, simple guidelines have proven a means of avoiding issues in the social media space.


As early as 2002, Heather Armstrong, a web designer and writer of blog dooce.com, was fired because of the satirical accounts of her experiences at a dot-com start-up. This is where the expression ‘to get dooced’ originates from – meaning that one can get fired because of what he or she writes in a personal space on the internet. Since then, many more employees have got themselves dooced.

Any company should therefore look at how it can share the best practices and discourage misuse of social media. One way to start this is to get the discussion about social media started with the employees that already use these tools. Establish best practices and work out guidelines to protect the company, the employee and the company’s clients from any social media “harm”.

Work in progress

Whichever set of guidelines you create, you will have to review them, as there will always be new services that come into play. Another reason to regularly review your guidelines is the rising use of smartphones and mobile internet. While you can technically block the likes of YouTube or Twitter on your company network, there will be increasingly more employees that will access these via their personal appliances. This means you will have to have guidelines which take these new trends into account.

Positive story

While setting boundaries is one objective of social media guidelines, encouraging your employees to share the positive stories within your company is another. Employees are a company’s best ambassadors. They are the experts that every company wants to have talking to current and prospective customers in the social media space.

They convince applicants to choose your company over another because they know the company inside and out and share information about the everyday-life at the office. Because companies recognise the positive effects of social media, many of them have already put internal guidelines and training programmes in place for their employees. Will your company be next?