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With more and more of us publishing content on The SAP Community Network, Twitter, Personal Blogs and various other parts of The Web it is important for organisations to have a Social Media Usage Policy in place for a number of reasons. The idea for this blog came as a result of a recent blog I posted on SCN. The content was in no way derogatory or negative towards SAP but I was questioning some of SAP’s marketing & communication strategies and how these could be perceived by end users.

It was pointed out to me that, as an employee of an SAP Partner, I should not be questioning SAP but be openly supporting and promoting their products and strategies (which I do 99% of the time) and on this occasion I removed part of the Blog in question.

This got me thinking over the weekend, could I face disciplinary action from my employer? Had I broken any rules / guidelines? The answer to both those questions is No. As a company we do not (yet) have a Social Media Usage Policy in place and I didn’t break any of the SAP Community Network guidelines. Basically I can Tweet / Blog about anything without fear of reprisal. This freedom is not a problem for most employees but, as companies grow and more staff use Twitter, SCN and other forums it is important for companies to have some control over the content their employees are posting. Even from their personal accounts.

The BBC have a very strict Social Media Usage Policy, if the poster / Tweeter uses the disclaimer “These are my own views and not my employers” and then posts something racist, sexist or derogatory to any one then it still reflects on the organisation. After all, they employ him / her!

The SAP Community Network only remove offensive posts but my recent experience has made me think more about how Personal content can reflect badly on an Employer or Business Partner. We are currently working on a Social Media Policy document that will outline guidelines for personal Social Media use for our employees.

I always remember my old Head Teacher’s comments regarding school trips away “You may be out of school but you are still representing the school so school rules still apply.” This is very true with various forms of Social Media even with the “these are my own views…..” disclaimer. The majority of the time an individual’s common sense will prevail but it is important to document to employees what is acceptable content and what is to be avoided

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  1. Chip Rodgers

    Great idea Tim!  I agree it’s really important for companies to have social media guidelines to help set expectations on for both management and for employees.  They can help avoid issues of misaligned understandings.

    As you mention in your blog above, the SCN policy is that we will remove content if it is abusive (language, racial, gender, etc.)  But if members post a blog or discussion that is simply something SAP “does not like”, the content will not be removed.  We will correct misstatements or errors or provide our own perspective.  But our experience with the SCN community is that many times our members speak up to provide better context or perspective.

    SAP published guidelines back in 2009 and are currently in the process of updating them for later this year.  In the mean time, here they are as currently published:

    SAP Social Media Participation Guidelines 2009

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  2. Steve Rumsby

    I’m not sure I agree that SAP partners, or employees thereof, should always be supportive of SAP. Justified, constructive criticism can be a good thing and I think in general SAP feels the same way. I’d rather have criticism from a friend.

    That’s not to say a social media policy is a bad idea, although it should mostly consist of “use your common sense”.

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    1. Jarret Pazahanick

      I agree with Steve that constructive criticism is a good thing and I personally dont see enough of it on the SCN or via social media channels. As an SAP partner it is our job to look out for our customers and while there are many things SAP is doing well there are also many things it can improve on. 

      I outlined some of thoughts on the value of “Troublemakers” here and you will notice several work for SAP Partners

      http://scn.sap.com/community/about/blog/2012/03/10/12-sap-troublemakers

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    2. Tim Guest Post author

      I agree with you Steve, I also think Greg made a good point below. I don’t know what is in our contract with SAP as a partner but I’m sure there will be something about online content. It is a fine line but agree that common sense should prevail!

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  3. Gregory Misiorek

    all we need is one lawsuit or two to find out that what we write can be used against us. i think most certified partners are legally bound to only promote their client’s business and not to engage in any criticism. we should always use our best judgement and honor our employers and clients right to privacy and confidentiality. otherwise, we will find ourselves without employers and/or clients.

    if i own stock in a company, i do reserve my rights to openly criticize the management as they are at least in theory working for me and i may not like what they do. the best way to exercise that criticism is of course to simply sell the stock.

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  4. Scott Lawley

    Regarding the comment about the BBC,

    “The BBC have a very strict Social Media Usage Policy, if the poster / Tweeter uses the disclaimer “These are my own views and not my employers” and then posts something racist, sexist or derogatory to any one then it still reflects on the organisation. After all, they employ him / her!”

    There is another aspect to be concerned about.  While a company may wish to distance themselves between its employees personal lives and professional lives, there are pretty strict definitions of what an employee is and when that employee is on duty.  For example, if you work from home on a regular basis during the hours of 8am and 6pm, then during that time and place you are officially an employee of the company.  The space and time in which you work on a regular basis is used to determine whether or not you are “on duty” and therefore any comments made during that time will likely be interpreted as comments on behalf of the employer.

    Very sticky issue…

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    1. Tim Guest Post author

      I definitely agree, if a person is Tweeting / Blogging on work time, does their employer have a right to control their content? I would say probably yes.

      Thanks for commenting

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      1. Steve Rumsby

        As Scott Lawley said, that means having a fairly strict definition of what “work time” is. In the world of SAP consultants, that can get very tricky when they are working on site and staying away from home for days or weeks at a time. Boundaries are hard to draw. Even in the world of the permanent employee, boundaries can be tricky. I often work evenings or weekends, especially if there’s a tricky problem that needs more thought that I can give it during the “working day”. And in compensation I will occasionally do non-work stuff during the “working day”. I don’t think I’m alone in this, either. Even discussions like this aren’t especially work-related for me.

        This sort of flexibility, if not abused, is a win for both sides. Trying to set boundaries between work and personal time will destroy it, to the detriment of both sides. This is part of the reason why I advocate social media policies built largely on common sense, although you do have to be prepared to get tough with people who abuse such polices, I guess. That shouldn’t be the focus of the policy, though.

        Again, as Scott said, very stick issue…

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  5. DJ Adams

    (tried to post this on the train on Monday but obviously hadn’t worked – probably my fault).

    Good points Tim.

    You said: “It was pointed out to me that, as an employee of an SAP Partner, I should not be questioning SAP but be openly supporting and promoting their products and strategies

    I have to disagree with whoever said that. In fact, I’m sure SAP would, to an extent, disagree also. SAP stands out from the crowd by embracing criticism and using it to make themselves and their products better, and I applaud them for that. As someone who moves in the SAP space, and who also just happens to be an SAP mentor, I praise when required, and criticise when required.

    A good Social Media Usage policy should address, allow and embrace well thought out positions, whatever they may be.

    dj

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