Don't Worry, Be Social: Why Freedom Is the Best Social Media Policy for Employees

In this Big Think Edge preview, IBM's VP of Marketing & Communications explains why companies shouldn't fear their employees' use of social media.

Jon Iwata: I guess it was like 10 years ago when we first heard about blogging and, you know, we said, “What is a blog?” And somebody told us what it was. And somebody at IBM said, “Well, we can’t permit that.” And along came Second Life and along came, you know, Twitter and LinkedIn and this one and that one. And, you know, I think corporations are by and large over the delusion that they can permit or disallow their employees from using so-called social media.

But we had the debate, you know? We had the debate back when blogging burst on the scene about whether or not we should, you know, allow this. And I’m very proud of the fact that my colleagues at IBM, we — the lawyer, the head of HR, the CIO of my own organization — we had the debate. We thought through all of the nightmare scenarios — and they’re always the same list, by the way. The lawyer worries about disclosure. The head of HR worries about, you know, people being recruited away. We worry about confidential information and so forth. And everybody worries about criticism of management.

But once you get over that and put them on the table, you realize, I think — and it’s been our experience now for like I said 10 years or so — that almost everything that you can come up with that would be a source of anxiety, it’s already covered, it’s already covered by our business practices. We’ve been training employees for decades about confidential information, about personal attacks on each other, about using crazy language. And if we would say to employees, "We trust you to use your judgment that if you wouldn’t say it in a conference room, why would you say it to millions of people out in social networks?"

If you’re not going to give away secrets in a parking garage at midnight, we’re going to trust you that you’re not going to do it on the internet, for goodness sakes, where everybody can see what you’re doing. So we trust you. Just use good judgment.


In this Big Think Edge preview, IBM's VP of Marketing & Communications explains why companies shouldn't fear their employees' use of social media.

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