Behavior Guidelines: Unblocking Social Media at the Firewall

For Public Relations who are concerned about Crisis Communication in Social Networks and are responsible for Social Media Training across the organisation. (40 Social Media Staff Guidelines here)

Facebook banned in the workplace? LinkedIn blocked because it’s an excellent jobsearch tool? Busy finding proxies to access Twitter? Using the company’s mobile phone to watch YouTube videos? You need my Uber Special, Six Shot, Magic Elixir Solution. Yep Truly.


Here’s what I suggest.


Approach the directors or IT dictators and ask why social media is blocked. Get all the reasons. They will include:

  • Waste of time,
  • over usage of resources such as bandwidth,
  • inappropriate postings including copyright and defamatory,
  • jobsearching on company time, and so on.

Now walk away, don’t argue what morons they are.


Run a lunchtime session -with wireless if you have to – and call it something sexy. Find Out All About Facebook and Twitter! or What’s Cool, What’s Hot in Social Networks like Facebook! or Beginners Guide to Facebook! or Spy on Your Ex and Kids on Facebook! Whatever works and don’t forget the exclamation mark at the end. It’s what marketing/advertising people do, to make their copy interesting to read.

During this session, give case studies of idiots that tweeted about hating their new job, or Facebook status updated about calling in sick when hungover. Demonstrate Facebook privacy settings – how to block stuff from public access. Show how easy it is to search for brand keywords on Twitter so that the Invisible Audience becomes obvious. Go over all the issues that the Directors gave you, in a fun informative way.


At the end of your workshop/workshops/lunches do a group exercise. Put people into teams and ask them to rank/rate a questionnaire on the main issues. Mine have stuff like:

Please rate from low (1) priority to (5) highest priority:

  • Claiming to be sick yet putting up party photos on Facebook 1 2 3 4 5
  • Badmouthing a colleague on Twitter 1 2 3 4 5
  • Badmouthing a client on Twitter 1 2 3 4 5

Let them argue it out. Should “no swearing in public social spaces online” include “bloody”? Is Facebook private profile a “public social space online” or is that only “groups”? And so on. Dont’ forget to see if you can find out who is blogging, on Digg etc. Nice time to start a social media internal audit.


Collate the results, and put it together as a social media policy. Distribute to the organisation and say “we, the company, decided this was our concerns and approach to appropriate and inappropriate behaviour”. Take the report to the Directors and explain that the whole organisation has been trained in the issues, has collaboratively developed their policies and guidelines and require signoff from the directors.


oh ok, maybe not -but that chick in marketing who sits on Facebook all day? And the drongo in accounts who posts up stupid photos of himself to company social media pages? Well, they haven’t just broken the company’s rules, they’ve broken the work community’s guidelines – the one’s everyone participated and agreed on. Off with their heads! At least a warning and a reminder that it’s a group ideal, not a stupid unthought through company rule.


Don’t run the lunches once… and that’s it. Run them again and again. Call them “More Cool Stuff on Social Networks!” or something. This isn’t email policies that you can have them sign once when they join, then forget about for the next 7 years. You need to update their skills.  It’s like kids – you don’t warn them of stranger danger once, you tell them everytime they walk out the door. Whether they want to hear it or not.

If you have a very large organisation, put the survey on an internal wiki – call it a “collaborative knowledgement management system” to get it past the IT fiends.

In conclusion: Obtain the senior management list of concerns, run social Media Training across the organisation, get the attendees to ‘workshop’ social media guidelines (you don’t have to tell ’em that). Go back to the directors, tell them the training has occurred and the guidelines drawn up with the whole company buyin, ask for signoff and permission to distribute to company, ask them to disable firewall blocks, and make sure you give them follow up – ongoing workshops, monitoring of lawbreakers, and so on. If they still don’t agree, change jobs. A PR consultant that has done all that to bring the company together and get them trained up is worth their weight in gold elsewhere. 😛

Saw this by CopywriteOpens in a new tab. – reminded me that I wanted to post this part of a Public Relations course I run.

Laurel Papworth

Named by Forbes™ Magazine in the Top 50 Social Media Influencers globally, named Head of Industry, Social Media (Marketing Magazine™) and in the Power150 Media bloggers (AdAge™). CERT IV Training and Assessment certified trainer (Diplomas and Certificates etc) Adult Education. Laurel has manager Facebook Pages for Junior Masterchef, Idol, Big Brother etc. and have consulted on private online communities for banks Westpac, not for profits UNHCR & governments in SE Asia. Lecturer, social media, University of Sydney for 10 years and Laurel has 11,000 online students. Laurel Papworth personally connects to 6 million followers online and has taught around 100,000 people in the last 10 years how to be social media managers.

16 thoughts on “Behavior Guidelines: Unblocking Social Media at the Firewall

  1. I would have thought it would be a better idea to ban linkedin if you are paranoid about losing staff?

    how much trouble can staff get in with facebook, unlike interesting material they can discover on youtube or begin to flame potential clients on company twitter accounts.

    If you block these, staff will waste more time working on getting around firewalls, or start using private laptops in the workplace which you have no control over.

  2. RT @SilkCharm Behavior Guidelines: Unblocking Social Media at the Firewall | Laurel Papworth- … http://tinyurl.com/cn4wwa (via @tweetmeme)

  3. Discussion around organisation social media policy sure gets people fired up. @silkcharm has an excellent article http://bit.ly/ul0Ym #SMBC

  4. Great article.

    Whilst Social networking can be seen as a huge party, common sense should prevail from both employees & employers.

    I once saw a real estate agent’s profile image on Facebook that said, “Amazingly enough I don’t give a shit.” (Great for business).

    I also heard of a woman that was going for a job in a prestigious law firm who was about to get the job, until the employers saw an image of her topless at a party on one of the Social Media sites.

    Understand that employers are also able to use Social Media sites to check you out. Try to keep your bad language under control & juggle your profile around the concept of keeping real & professional at the same time.

    PS: I agree with the concept that if the company won’t lift the firewall change jobs.

    Companies that don’t embrace social media in the workplace are missing out on one of the greatest ways to generate business that was ever created.

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