Bill Simmons, a popular ESPN/Grantland columnist (one of my favorites, personally) was suspended from twitter for three days for criticizing a segment on ESPN’s First Take. You can read specifically what he said here but the gist was that the segment was unwatchable and indefensible. Which, it was. But all of First Take usually falls into one or both of those categories.
What I found to be interesting in this was the policy Simmons was actually in violation of: “At all times, exercise discretion, thoughtfulness and respect for colleagues, business associates and fans.”
Speaking from experience I think that is a very vague policy. It’s basically saying ‘be nice’. But really, that is open to interpretation. Maybe ESPN has a formula to determine these things but who’s to say if these tweets fall into this category? What one person may find to be in violation another may think it’s acceptable. If they are going to suspend people for criticizing sister shows they should just come out and say ‘Don’t say anything bad about other shows on our networks. Ever.’ That would be better than what they have – and the suspension would be easier to swallow. Just like anything else you have to be clear about what your expectations are – and what you’re going to base your actions on.
Of course all of this speaks to the importance of having a social policy. Just like any other aspect of your business you want people to be aware what is and isn’t acceptable when speaking in a forum on behalf of your company. If you’re going to represent your place of employment (something that is almost impossible to avoid on social) you need to put more time than ever into brand and culture programs so people understand and are empowered to speak for you…but also have guidelines in which to do so.
You don’t want to leave opinion up to interpretation.