If you don’t know- Dell is an American multinational computer technology corporation based in Texas, that develops, sells, and supports computers and related products and services. Today, the company is one of the largest technological corporations in the world, employing more than 103,300 people worldwide (the third largest PC maker in the world after HP and Lenovo). Furthermore, it is listed at number 41 on the Fortune 500 list.
Dell has posted its “Global Social Media Policy” on its company website. The policy is a simple online document that is written in a conversational tone. This is done so that more people will actually read and understand it as it is the first step in a process.
As stated previously, the document is written as a simple first step to the Social Media Process. Dell encourages employees to use social media “the right way.” The company believes that this policy, coupled with its Social Media and Communities University (SMaC U) classes are the keys to keeping employees on the correct path.
After assessing the meaning of the policy, the policy then seeks to explain what social media is, “Since the term Social Media is used a number of different ways, we want to make sure you understand what we mean when we say Social Media. Social Media is any tool or service that facilitates conversations over the Internet. Social Media applies not only to traditional big names, such as Facebook®, Twitter and Renren, but also applies to other platforms you may use that include user conversations, which you may not think of as Social Media. Platforms such as, YouTube™, Flickr™, blogs and wikis are all part of Social Media.”
Finally, the policy jumps into a description of the five social media principles that an employee needs to know before engaging in any type of online conversation that might impact Dell. These are the five social media principles:
- Protect Information
- Be Transparent and Disclose
- Follow the Law, Follow the Code of Conduct
- Be Responsible
- Be Nice, Have Fun, and Connect
I believe that Dell really seems to be working hard to make sure that all of its employees truly understand the nature of social media. They have done this through both a well-written policy as well as through the creation of social media classes.
The five social media principles are also well thought out. The three that stand out to me are “Follow the Law, Follow the Code of Conduct,” “Be Responsible,” and “Be Nice, Have Fun, and Connect.” At first glance these may seem like common sense (and to some degree they are), but let’s look a little deeper.
- “Follow the Law, Follow the Code of Conduct”- This principle is about understanding the nature of social media- it’s huge, a message can go viral in only a few seconds. This means that fixing inaccurate messaging can be very difficult. Dell suggests that the best thing to do is simply double check all content (for accuracy and to make sure that it fits with Dell’s strategy, Code of Conduct, and local law) before it is shared. In this principle Dell also discuses core values of the company. One of these values is Winning with Integrity, something that should apply to social media as well as outside sources. So in my opinion, this principle is all about thinking before you post- making sure that your post is accurate and reflects well on the company.
- “Be Responsible”- This principle is about making sure that employees are engaging in social media conversations the right way. “If you aren’t an authority on a subject, send someone to the expert rather than responding yourself. Don’t speak on behalf of Dell is you aren’t giving an official Dell response, and be sure your audience knows the difference. If you see something being shared related to Dell on a social media platform that shouldn’t be happening, immediately inform the Social Media and Communities team, your manager, Ethics and Compliance or some other appropriate contact.” I personally believe that this is a great addition to the policy. This is because your employees are your best advocates for the company. You must use them as the eyes and ears of the company. Additionally, on the flip side, these people can say things about the company and sometimes information may be incorrect. So it’s important to be responsible and make sure you always share accurate information. In the end, Dell sums this up best by saying, ” …so be sure you’re only posting content you would feel comfortable showing up in your boss’ inbox, your coworker’s Twitter feed, or the front page of a major news site.” Think about what you post!
- “Be Nice, Have Fun, and Connect”- I think that this is a great final addition to the social media policy. This is because this part of the policy brings some of the fun back into social media by reminding employees that social media is about having conversations and building connections (personally and professionally). Even though there are a lot of rules to follow in the policy, it’s still about having fun and being yourself. You just have to make sure that you use your head and do it the right way!
Overall, Dell has some great elements to its’ Social Media Policy. Even though it may seem like common sense- it’s all about representing the company that you work for in the right light. If you can’t do that, you should probably find a new job. If you can do that, great job- you’re a great spokesperson for your employer.
Although Dell’s Social Media Policy was well written overall, there are a few low points in the style of writing.
In the section with the five social media principles, there were two areas that didn’t stand out to me. These were in the principles “Protect Information” and “Be Transparent and Disclose.”
- “Protect Information”-Dell describes this principle by discussing the fact that social media encourages people to share information and connect with others. The principle goes on to discuss that by working for Dell an individual has access to confidential information that shouldn’t be made public. I personally found this principle to be a complete no brainer. Don’t share confidential information! Do you really need to be told that?
- “Be Transparent and Disclose”- Another no brainer comes in the form of disclosing that you work for Dell on social media. The policy almost seems childish here…reading, ” You should know and remember the 10 magic words…” Even though it is a good idea in theory- I believe that the way this is written makes it seem like Dell employees are children.
So really those are both very good social media principles. I believe that the error occurs in Dell’s trying to make the principles less like common sense and more official. The company draws out the wording in a way that almost makes it confusing.
Overall I would keep the policy pretty much the same. I believe that it is based on solid ideas from real research. However, one issue is with the writing style. Even though the conversational tone is nice (maybe easier for employees to read), I feel that the resulting wordiness of the document makes it confusing in parts. Instead of recognizing that a lot of these things are simple- Dell tries to make them seem complex.
I would also suggest editing the policy to list out platforms and feature specific examples for each. I feel that this would really help further illustrate the document by giving people real examples so that everyone can fully understand how they should or should not use social media. This could be done either inside the document (lists, screenshots) or as an appendix.
Why a Social Policy is Necessary:
Organizations need a social media policy. As I stated previously, employees are advocates for their company. They are, to some extent, the face of the company. Therefore, social media policies are extremely important because employees are on social media- they list “Dell” as their employer, friends may ask for advice when choosing a computer, and so on. Whether they like it or not, Dell is part of who they are and therefore they are also a large part of what Dell is. If someone writes something poor in reference to the company…it won’t look good for Dell.
Even though a social media policy may seem goofy and a no brainer to many (it’s just common sense after all), the reality is that many people don’t think when it comes to social media. Therefore, social media policies are needed. This way the company can refer back to it if there is ever any issue and everything is written out in a clear format. Now that social media is such a large part of our lives, there needs to be a policy for it. Ultimately, it’s for the good of the company.