Corporate Social Media Policy and Risk Management


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Corporate social media policies need to ensure the risk management parts are aligned with the culture

Last night in Brisbane, Australia, I spoke to a group of business people on aspects of social media and risk, as part of a seminar on the topic “Minimising Risks of Social Networking for Organisations”.

I have studied many corporate policy documents in this field and thought I had a fairly good grasp of the issues and how to frame a policy statement. Nevertheless, in preparing the talk, I became increasingly aware that I was having a challenge in identifying general principles and practical guidelines for social media policy generally, and risk management in particular.

Corporate culture key to appropriate social media policy

As I proceeded, I became convinced that an essential pre-requisite for a sound corporate social media (risk management) policy is to identify and delineate the corporate culture, especially about risk and, in this context especially about risk in communications between the workforce and the rest of the world.

It’s a truism that, in business as in life, with opportunity comes risk. A social media policy that does not address risk is never going to be adequate or effective.

But surely every corporation, every organisation, is going to vary in its approach to risk, on a sliding scale from very risk tolerant to very risk averse. So one might reasonably assume that a law firm’s culture in respect of social media will tend to the risk averse end of the scale, whereas an adventure travel company might be more risk tolerant.

I believe firmly that it is not the job of a social media strategist or consultant to tell a company or organisation that it should be more or less risk tolerant. There can be perfectly good, brand-relevant reasons for one company to be comparatively risk tolerant and another risk averse, for instance as between telecommunications companies and energy utilities.

What I might say, though, is that if a highly risk-averse company wants to hold strongly to that cultural value and simultaneously become an active participant in the social media conversation and the social media way of doing business, they must expect to have some real challenges. That could well require a program of facilitated cultural change and adaptation.

In my presentation I used one case study, namely Zappos, which looks to me like a very risk-tolerant company, as exemplified in the company-wide encouragement for employees to have and use Twitter accounts.

Amber Naslund has some great suggestions for risk-averse companies wanting to engage with and through social media without coming unstuck in the process.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Des Walsh
Des Walsh is an executive leadership coach, social media strategist and LinkedIn expert. He is passionate about sharing his understanding of the benefits of social media in a way that makes good sense for business.


  1. Des,
    I’ve been following this as well for a while and through this site and others I’ve compiled many dozens of examples of policy documents – I still think IBM has one of the best examples.

    To your points about culture, this is really important and is often overlooked (primarily due to ignorance). I am doing some work at the moment for a company (also here in Brisbane) in the healthcare industry and whilst they are very keen to engage with their customers using social media, they need to balance this against the fact that some of their customers have mental illnesses – so as a business, they need to manage these risks (internally) very openly.

    We’re doing this through a series of short workshops with their team to both educate and engage. I think this is the crucial bit – getting your internal community to contribute, engage, and therefore take ownership of the policy and how it is implemented or policed. It’s been very interesting to facilitate the dialogue up and down the ranks as opportunity, attitude, and risk are meshed together

    Mark Parker
    Smart Selling

  2. Thanks for that, Mark.

    I agree about the IBM policy. It was one of the first and warrants close study. I have to say I was surprised to find how encouraging the policy was/is for IBM’s people to participate actively in the social media enabled conversation. The policy strikes a nice balance, in my opinion, between that encouragement and sensible alerts to what would not be acceptable behaviour in terms of IBM’s culture and values.


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