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Lessons learned from Apple’s Social Media Policy

Intentionally or not, somehow some of Apple’s internal policies leaked.

Social Media in the workplace

The first thing Apple acknowledged and made a point of, starting their document with:

The lines between public and private, and personal and professional are blurred in online social networks. This means that there will be consequences to stuff you post online, as a company employee, whether you identify yourself as one, or not. If you post anything on online networks which is against company policies, or “deems inappropriate”, there will be a price to pay.

Apple’s general approach is – Use your best judgement. As an Apple employee you should always keep to the HRCCC principle – Honesty, respect, confidentially, community, compliance. The Business Conduct Policy and the HRCCC principle apply to all employees, contractors, and anyone who has a business relationship with Apple. What’s interesting here is the holistic approach the company has taken, not isolating direct employees only – everyone who’s doing business with your company has an impact on your brand, and representing you in some shape of form – they should be included in company policies as well.

Another interesting choice of words is that Apple has many internal policies, but when Social Media is concerned, the term for the document is – Social Media Guidelines. The thing is with Social Media, is it is very difficult to police the employees’ activity. Trust is very important, but even when you “trust” thousands of employees, you should still guide them in the right direction, and in accordance with the company culture.

During discussions with many executives about Social Media in the workplace, I often hear valid concerns about how social media can effect productivity, when used during work hours. The fact is – your employees are using social media during work hours, whether you allow it or not – on their mobile phones, their ipads, or any other mobile device. Apple has addressed this concern, saying: “In general, what you do in your own time is your business. However, activities that affect your job perfomance, the performance of other Apple employees, or Apple’s business interests are still covered by company policies and guidelines. This applies whether you engage in these activities in or outside of work, and whether you have identified yourself as an Apple employee or not.”

In the past few years, I’ve trained many recruiting firms on how to use social media, and LinkedIn in particular. The most common concern was (and that was based on a few cases, in Australia and overseas) that consultants may connect to their clients on LinkedIn, and when they leave (and that’s another topic altogether), they take their database with them. Apple have addressed this in a less-trusting manner, putting it under the “customer privacy” banner: “Do not use or discuss any information regarding customers for any purpose. This includes contacting customers for social reasons or soliciting outside business.

The documents leaked are comprehensive and very detailed, and have many great points. One last interesting point I’d like to mention – the document spelled out the following:”Finally, do not post or disclose the contents of any Apple policy. These documents are intended for the use of Apple employees, and not for public distribution.”

This goes to show that in spite our tendency to trust our team members and employees, there will come a time when the trust will be broken. A well crafted Social Media Policy will at least give you the right of action, in such case.