Make Sure the Boundaries are Clear. Banning the BS from Social Media Part 3.

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This is Part 3 of 10 part series exploring how to Ban the BS from Social Media.

The series looks at the key elements of successfully implementing a Social Media and Social Business Strategy.  Each Part is derived from our 10 Commandments for Banning the BS from Social Media.

PART 3.       Make Sure the Boundaries are Clear

It’s funny how so many of us apply this at home with our kids, but, not at work or vice versa.  Social Media and Social Business are new names, but, they apply to the same old things we’ve always had to consider at home and work: Relationships, Interactions, Participation and Collaboration.  We’ve just got new and rapidly evolving tools to use.  Just like before, whether at home or work, you’ve got to Make Sure the Boundaries are Clear.


A couple of weeks back a friend of mine, Hamish , was telling me about a conference on Social Media at which he spoke.  The first speaker took the approach that Social Media was evil, that no good could come of it and that letting your children use it would expose them to a life of addiction (digital that is), bad people and unnecessary harm.  The increase in the level of anxiety for the audience was palpable.  The audience was left feeling fearful of this new plague “Social Media”.

Good v Evil

My friend who had planned to explore all of the good, the benefits of Social Media, ended up pivoting his talk to address the extreme “Social Media is Evil” nature of the previous speaker. The reality is Social Media is in every home, workplace (to some degree) and increasingly on every mobile device.  The best way for us to help our kids deal with Social Media is to help them understand it, give them boundaries for using it, and the thinking skills to work out who’s making up stories and who’s being authentic.

Just as we look to teach them appropriate behaviours at home and in the classroom, we can teach them what is and isn’t appropriate in the digital world and that there are consequences for their actions.  You used to tell the kids to turn off the TV and go to bed, you can do the same for the computer, iPad and Mobile.

More importantly by Making Sure the Boundaries are Clear, we can help them harness the benefits of these tools, tools that help them develop social skills and the human touch necessary to interact in an increasingly social world, tools that are being used NOW to help people get jobs, collaborate , solve problems and are opening up doors that it was not possible to open before.

Twitter in collaborative study.

  • There are an increasing number of studies demonstrating the positive impact of using Social Media on educational outcomes.
  • The use of Social Media is resulting in increased levels of engagement and higher grades.
  • Check out this infographic “Is Twitter Hurting Your Grades”

Social Media used by employers to screen job candidates. Check out this article “How recruiters use Social Networks to Screen Candidates”

  • 91% are using Social Networks to review prospective employers.
  • 68% hired a candidate because of something they saw on a social networking site.
  • It is increasingly becoming essential to have a Social Graph, presence on Social Networks, to get a job.

There are employers, now, who won’t employ people who don’t tweet and blog and guys like Pete Williams from Deloitte Digital are prepared to say so.  Deloitte Digital won the 2011 Forrester Groundswell Award in Boston USA in the Management Collaboration/Social Application category for their use of Yammer, a private, secure enterprise social network.


How does this all relate to creating Boundaries for the Social Business?  Just as you don’t want you kids to drop their pants and do nudie runs around the classroom, you don’t want the people you work with to either.  It’s not appropriate in the physical workplace and it’s equally not appropriate in the digital workplace.

So set the boundaries. You get to choose how big the sandbox is and what kind of play is acceptable within that sandbox.  Just like your kids, the people you work with will appreciate knowing where they stand and what they can and can’t do. Let your people know the boundaries as soon as possible and avoid the distraction of people wondering “Can I?” or the clean up of someone going a little too far.


Establish the Policy and Guidelines for Social Media and train your staff.  Make sure it is clear Who’s? responsible for What? At the same time don’t let risk, compliance and downside get in the way of making the most of Social Media and DOING.

One of the most common questions we hear from those who are new to Social Media is:

“What if people say something bad about us?”

If it’s your staff you’re concerned about, remember that you trust them with the keys to the building and the details of your bank accounts, if you make the boundaries clear you can trust them with Social Media.  More on this in Part 8 of this series “Trust Your Staff.”  If it’s the rest of the world, your customers, investors etc that you’re worried about, remember this: You can’t control them! …. You can not control them!  But, if you listen to them (there a heap of tools to monitor what is being said about you) you’ll get some of the best market research FREE, take the opportunity to engage, be social, build life long relationships and most importantly STAY RELEVANT.

Remember you don’t have to go from zero to hero in one step, you can start with a small internal program and work your way out as you get more practice.

Here’s a couple of great examples of introductory videos for Social Media from EMC and Victoria’s Department of Justice.

Policy’s can be as simple as Zappos’ one line Twitter Policy “Just be real, and use your best judgement”.  This might be enough for you is it is supported by a very strong company culture and some quality training.

Once you’ve established the boundaries, you can get on with the DOING.  As your business becomes more comfortable and adept at using Social Tools,  you can start taking opportunities to use them throughout your business, supporting customer service, product design, hiring processes, employee engagement, collaboration.  Sure, every business is unique and applications of Social Business will vary.  Whatever the application, it is a chance to innovate and differentiate, and it will be much easier for all involved if you Make Sure the Boundaries are Clear.

Top Tips:

  1. Establish Social Business governance that works for you early including relevant policies and guidelines. Make sure it’s clear, who’s responsible for what.
  2. Align Social Business policy with your organizational culture, communicate it with your people.
  3. If you move the goal posts … Let everyone know.

Next up:

Part 4: Be Scientific.

Precious posts in this series:

Part 1: Strategy, Why? comes before Technology, How?

Part 2: Take a Systems Approach.

As always we’d love to hear: What you think? Any questions you have? So, leave a comment and follow us on Twitter, subscribe to our blog or RSS feed to stay up to date with this Series on Banning the BS from Social Media and other blog posts.

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