After reading some great social media guidelines from companies like Intel, I began to wonder how some of these guidelines might impact the rest of us in our everyday work lives. It is clear that companies, big and small, are taking a more serious look at how factors such as real-time search and social media are having an impact on where and when their name might be showing up online. This is more than just a shift in how businesses are marketing themselves; it may indicate a shift in the relationships between employees and employers.

If you are @MarySmith on Twitter with 300 local followers (3 of whom are influential mommy-bloggers), and you work in accounting at Uber Widgets, all of a sudden what you say online is very important to the discussions up in the board room. Will your boss be a kinder, gentler human being? Not necessarily. I do expect that you’ll be served with a set of guidelines for your online behavior. If you hate your job and want to tweet about it, I’d imagine that having a link to your company’s website in your profile will be a no-no.

I’m not jumping on the “social media predictions for 2010” train here, but let’s do walk down the path a little. I see that companies, especially larger corporations, will come to the realization that they need to cultivate internal ambassadors. I’d also expect that there will be a desire to exercise some level of control over these appointed ambassadors.  These will be happy employees and executives who carry a positive message about their company’s brand. “Mary Smith, we’ve noticed that you like to talk about us over on Facebook, and we like what we see. “ Can you see where you might be called into a meeting and offered a facelift of all of your online identities from the IT and Art dept. guys? How about that fifty cent an hour raise?!

This is the frontline. Personal vs. business, is what you say online representative of you or your company, or both?  If you work for a smaller company, or a larger one with no clear set of guidelines, are you still accountable? Could you actually lose your job over something you say online? Yes you can, and it’s happening more and more every day. I’d love to see company’s putting more thought towards having a list of best-practices over a set of enforceable guidelines, I just don’t think we’re there just yet. Right now it looks more like damage control than innovative thinking to me.

Co-operation and shared best interests will be topics that share board room space alongside bottom lines and policy. Things are changing, and as crazy as it may seem to us all, honesty, trust, empathy, kindness, and being human play an even larger role in the future of doing business.

It’s quite a conundrum really…it’s also a delicate power struggle. I don’t foresee corporations throwing up their fists with a “damn the torpedoes” attitude over this. I also don’t see that everyday people will adjust well to the idea that their workplace may have a keen eye on the conversations that take place among their “private” contacts online. It’s ALL public anymore, and EVERYONE is coming to realize this…what to do?

*Update 12/20/09 Should also note this link here: Social Media Policies of 113 Organizations

I may be sticking my foot into something here, maybe not. What’s YOUR take? How do you see this working out in the near-future? Can we all get along?

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