Social media at work, or, is there a Ford in your future?

Disclosure: I grew up in Detroit (and I don’t mean Livonia, let alone Auburn Hills).  My dad was an auto worker (and so was I, for one summer).  People back there say things like “Chrysler’s is doing better,” using the possessive even when the company is the subject of the sentence.

Well, Ford’s is doing well, too.  Not just in car sales, though those are on the uptick.  I’m thinking of the Ford Motor Company digital participation guidelines just posted at Scribd.  Like any large corporate, Ford doubtless has lots and lots of text somewhere, but these guidelines are a great example of sensible policy to guide employees who are using social media.

Ford social media guidelines

You really ought to read the whole thing for yourself, but I’m going to summarize and comment here.

Be honest about who you are.

The gist: when your online conversations relates to our business or industry, identify yourself as working for Ford Motor Company.  Say who you are without giving out detailed information.

Not too much to ask in any conversation.

Make it clear that your views are your own.

Include the following somewhere in every social media profile:

“I work at Ford, but this is my own opinion and is not the opinion of Ford Motor Company.”

“Somewhere in the profile” isn’t an onerous requirement. For nearly 10 years, in one online forum, my signature line concluded with “My opinions, not GE’s.”  In case people weren’t sure.

Mind your manners.

Treat coworkers, other personnel, customer, competitions, the company, and yourself with respect.  Don’t post offensive, demeaning, or inappropriate comments.  Respectfully withdraw from discussions that go off-topic or become profane.

I’ve seen lots of discussion about how the immediacy (and physical safety) of the Internet encourage people to be… more than assertive, let’s say.  Good for attention, not so good for reputation.  At least not positive reputation.

Use your common sense.

Keep certain business-related topics confidential.  If you’re talking about the company or the industry, focus on matters of public record.  Don’t divulge non-public company information, or personal information about others.

Remember: what happens online, stays online.

“Search engines and other technologies make it virtually impossible to take something back.  Be sure you mean what you say, and say what you mean.”

Also, consider everything you post online the same as posting to a physical bulletin board or submitting a letter to a newspaper.  Assume that reporters, competitors, and your boss will be able to read it.

Anyone who’s been online for more than three months knows this.  It’s not bad to recall it, though.

* * *

If you’ve ever worked in a corporate environment, you know that’s not the whole of it.  The guidelines tell you want to do about company intellectual property, about vehicle or repair concerns, about dealer issues.  And if you’re unsure, ask the corporate communications or legal staff for advice.

Notice: there’s nobody you have to check with and ask if you can participate in arenas like Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr.  The document says, “we have advised our personnel to observe these guidelines when participating in an online conversation regarding Ford or the automotive industry.”

5 thoughts on “Social media at work, or, is there a Ford in your future?

  1. Dave–I think this one-pager for a company the size and complexity of Ford should be a wake-up call to other organizations. It addresses the key points without getting into a lot of verbiage. Also like that the assumption is that people WILL participate. We assume they’re using the phone and email, so we need to start assuming they’ll be using social media, rather than trying to limit it. Just doesn’t work.

  2. I’ve been noticing a lot more talk about some of the operational aspects of “this social media stuff” – things like how to work with legal (not when, but how), guidelines like the ones posted above, escalation documents and other important process documents. Dave Fleet actually just shared 57 of them over on his blog.

    A lot of companies are also waking up to the point that Michele outlines above – companies are increasingly realizing that their employees ARE active in social media, even during working hours.

    Community Manager | Radian6

  3. Michelle, it’d be fun to compare the policy of this allegedly rust-belt, 20th-century, manufacturing-centric company with other large employers.

    I’m sure someone somewhere will do something dumb on the job via social media. Kind of like the way someone somewhere did something dumb on the job while on the phone, or in email, or at a meeting.

  4. Katie, thank you for the link to Dave Fleet’s list. I browsed a few of the sources and liked the one from Reuters, with the interesting suggestion that employees “avoid rais­ing ques­tions about your free­dom from bias”.

Comments are closed.