Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Apple’s social media policy: a lot to like … and one huge thing to hate

How does a hip, cutting-edge company like Apple handle its employees’ use of social media? Apparently, pretty well. 9 to 5 Mac got its hands on the Apple Retail Blogging and Online Social Media Guidelines, and published the details. There’s a lot to read (it's a long policy), and a lot to like.

For example, Apple’s policy strikes an appropriate balance between the management of its reputation and respect for employees’ lives online or away from work:

In general, what you do on your own time is your business. However, activities that affect your job performance, the performance of other Apple employees, or Apple’s business interests are still covered by company policies and guidelines. This applies whether you engage in these activities in or outside of work, and whether or not you identify yourself as an Apple employee….

Be thoughtful about how you present yourself in online social networks. The lines between public and private, and personal and professional are blurred in online social networks. If you identify yourself as an Apple employee or are known to be one, you are now connected to your co-workers, Leaders and even Apple’s customers. You should ensure that content associated with you is consistent with Apple policies.

Apple’s concluding remarks for its employees serve as an excellent boilerplate for any company looking to implement a social media policy:

In sum, use your best judgment. Remember there may be consequences to what you post or publish online including discipline if you engage in conduct that Apple deems inappropriate or violates any Apple policies. If you’re about to post something and you are concerned whether you are following these guidelines or any Apple policy, please discuss it with your Leader or HR before posting.

All is not rosy with Apple’s policy, however. Tim Cook, if you’re reading, give me a call. I have some concerns over what the NLRB might say about the following piece of your policy and its potential to hinder employees’ rights to engage in protected concerted activity:

Respect the privacy of your coworkers. Blogs, wikis, social networks and other tools should not be used for internal communications among fellow employees. It is fine for Apple employees to disagree, but please don’t use your external blog or other online social media to air your differences. Do not discuss your co-workers without their permission, and ask permission before posting their picture. By respecting your co- workers’ privacy you will be helping to maintain the professional work environment at Apple.

Apple, you might want to reconsider a policy that gags your employees and prevents them from “using social media to air … differences.” You don’t want to end up as the biggest notch on the NLRB’s social media belt.