‘Loose tweets sink fleets’ and other sage advice: social media governance, policies and guidelines

Published date01 May 2015
AuthorJane Johnston
Date01 May 2015
Academic Paper
Loose tweets sink eetsand other sage
advice: social media governance, policies
and guidelines
Jane Johnston*
Faculty of Society & Design, Bond University, Gold Coast, Australia
While socialmedia representsa broad range of benets toorganisations and institutions, such asenhanced brand engage-
ment, it also presents challenges and risksto reputation and security, such as condentiality breaches.Employee use of
popular socialmedia platforms, suchas Facebook and Twitter, bothat work and about work has resulted in organisations
developingsocial media policiesand guidelines as partof contemporary governancepractice. This paperinvestigates this
recent approachto corporate governance by examining 20 social mediapolicies and guidelines from a sampleof corpo-
rate, governmentand third sectororganisations that areactive social media users.It develops a basic framework for social
media governance based on the 13 common themes that emerge from the sample, including condentiality, disclosure
and the publicprivate divide of social media usage. It draws on social contract theory and considers its importance to
the eld of social media governance. Key implications for managers whoare tasked with developing and implementing
social media policies and guidelines are discussed.Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
As individuals ock to social media, organisations
are taking advantage of this behaviour to re-engage
with stakeholders and exploit it for their own use
(Mangold & Faulds, 2009; Postman, 2009; Zerfass,
Fink, & Linke, 2011). Web2.0 has provided the capac-
ity for organisationsto converse with consumers like
never before, giving unparalleled access to informa-
tion, enhanced brand awareness, opportunities for
collaboration, a richer user experience and improved
web metrics (Postman, 2009). This move has seen a
massive rise in research and business interest into
many and varied social media activitiesfrom viral
marketing (Mills, 2012) to electronic word of mouth
(Kietzmann & Canhoto, 2013), engagement with
brand communities (Plangger, 2012) and expanded
forms of integrated marketing (Mangold & Faulds,
2009) to name just a few.
developments, however, has focussed on the role of
the consumer who is external to the organisation
(Campbell, Piercy, & Heinrich, 2012; Kietzmann &
Canhoto, 2013; Kietzmann, Silvestre, & Pitt, 2012;
Mangold & Faulds, 2009; Mills, 2012; Postman, 2009;
Spaulding, 2010). This paper shifts the focus from that
position to one of internal users of social media, nota-
bly employees. In particular, it focuses on the intersec-
tion between social media activity and new
approaches to governance practices and policies.
McHale (2012, p. 207) argues that with the rapid
adoption of social media, a growing need exists for
companies to establish corporate social media policies
and governance models to guide and monitor em-
ployee and corporate social media activity.Heis
joined by a growing body of scholars and profes-
sionals who urge the need for social media policies as
part of sound governance practice (Boudreaux, 2010;
Dawson, 2009; Foreshew, 2012; Linke & Zerfass,
2012; Macnamara, 2011; Zerfass, Fink, & Linke, 2011).
It is therefore somewhat paradoxical that research
shows a relativelylow uptake of social media policies
*Correspondence to: Jane Johnston, Associate Professor of Public
Relations and Journalism, Faculty of Society & Design, Bond
University, Gold Coast, Australia.
E-mail: jjohnsto@bond.edu.au
Journal of Public Affairs
Volume 15 Number 2 pp 175187 (2015)
Published online 22 August 2014 in Wiley Online Library
(www.wileyonlinelibrary.com) DOI: 10.1002/pa.1538
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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