I did a quick straw poll on twitter last month asking about whether or not companies should have a Social Media Policy for their employees. It was in preparation for a discussion on BBC Radio Leeds about how companies and employees should use social media.

As a general rule I recommended that people should think before they tweet/post. If you work for a company and you’re less that complimentary about them on social networks, should you be surprised if your employer gets upset? Should companies therefore outline their expectations in a written policy? Well I asked the twittersphere and as you’d expect, I got a mixed response. Some on twitter felt that a social media policy would homogenise tweets, others thought it was a good idea.

The only conclusion I can arrive at is that we’re still working out what the boundaries are. Users need to think more about their privacy settings but more importantly they should be considerate about what they say or as someone said to me recently, think twice, post once. It isn’t Facebook or Twitter that gets people fired or upsets people, it’s what they say and do that does. Treating a Facebook status update like a conversation is wrong, Facebook is a broadcast tool and messages spread like wild fire through social networks.

What I think social media policies are most useful for is getting organisations to consider how they want to be communicate in the social space and brief employees accordingly. Spending time thinking about it will lead to some boundaries being set and if necessary these can be written into contracts or policies. Personally I think discussing your expectations as an employer should be enough but it really depends on your organisation. The benefit a written policy has is that it can form part of an employment contract and means all new employees are clear from the outset. We’ve helped a few client recently with some policy and guideline documents to help and encourage their employees to tweet and facebook for them so policies can help get employees more involved as well as keep things professional.

Social Media Examiner has a huge list of social media policies if you want to see what other companies are doing and Dave Fleet has a good ebook with guidelines for creating a social media policy.

A special thanks goes to Ed Waring (@edhombre) who sent me a link to Intel’s Social Media Policy.

A full run down of tweets is on our Flickr account - just click through to read what the reaction was.

It would be great to carry on the discussion so please add your comments below and let me know what you think.