A New Social Contract
U.S. states are passing laws protecting the privacy of employee social media accounts from their employers. Most of the privacy protections are some variation of prohibiting employers from requiring disclosure of current or potential employees personal social networking account login information, along with language that prevents employers from retaliating against employees for refusing to provide social media account information.
Of course employers shouldn't have access to employee social media accounts.
It seems to me that employers are asking for the wrong thing. Instead of asking employees to share their login information, they should be enlisting employees as the front line of an effort to spread the company message far and wide. What employers should be more concerned with is why employees aren't using their social media accounts to champion the company brand.
Changing the Way Social Media is Viewed in the Workplace
Employees expect to use social media on company time. If I look at the Facebook and Twitter usage of people I'm friends with, all of them use social media services at some point during "normal business hours". With the exception of my former co-workers at HasOffers bragging about the latest lunch from the in-house chef, I rarely see any of these same folks who are active during work hours sharing anything cool their company is doing.
Why aren't people talking about their employers in public?
Employees are potentially an army of advocates who can share their message with the world. The more employees you have, the bigger your army. Very few companies take advantage of this opportunity or educate employees how best to engage online when talking about the company.
Hewlitt-Packard is a good example of one company with many employees sharing. HP employees actively blog. Many of these same employees actively share blog posts and videos created inside the company.
The Hard Questions about Employee Social Media Use
Employers should be asking why employees aren't sharing content about the company they work for. This question should be asked both introspectively to see if there are problems with sharing coming from inside the company. Employers should also be asking employees about what needs to change in the company culture to foster a spirit of sharing.
Employees should be asking themselves the same kind of questions. If you are an employee who doesn't currently share anything from your employer, why not? If it's because the company culture doesn't foster a sharing spirt or because the company wants all messaging controlled by PR, find the right people to ask about creating acceptable sharing guidelines. If the reason you're not sharing is because you're not proud of where you work or because your company isn't doing anything cool, maybe it's time to think about looking for a job you are proud of.
What would it take to turn a company full of employees into that army full of advocates championing the company mission?