You may have heard recently that the USMC and ESPN have really come down hard on social networking sites. The USMC banned the use of social networks entirely and ESPN has implemented extremely strict guidelines that focus mainly on helping ESPN:
“The first and only priority is to serve ESPN sanctioned efforts, including sports news, information and content”
There has been a lot of discussion around the USMC/ESPN move and a lot of people are taking aim at these organizations criticizing them and telling them they are “doing it wrong.” Olivier Blanchard actually just wrote a post criticizing the USMC and ESPN for doing it wrong while praising IBM for doing it right. This post isn’t meant to talk about who is doing anything right or wrong it’s meant to address our tendency to judge quickly.
The people at the USMC and at ESPN are not idiots…are they? They understand their business and their organization and they understand what works best for them. It’s easy for us to criticize and tell companies that they are not using social media properly, but without really understanding their business and how they operate, our criticisms really have no merit.
The USMC, ESPN, and IBM are VERY different organizations, why should we expect them all to adopt similar social media policies and guidelines? People are saying that the USMC ban was too strict, but you know what, at the end of they day when there’s a possibility that people’s live are at stake or that we can somehow jeopardize our soldiers at war, then guess what, the ban does make sense. Are there other alternatives? Probably, but in this case the risk is extremely high. The USMC doesn’t just ban things for fun, I’m sure they thought long and hard about this and just determined that the security threats are not worth the risk. Again, I could be completely wrong here but the point is that we need to understand why these decisions were made and how these organizations operate.
ESPN didn’t outright ban the use of social networks completely but they did make a few bold statements such as this one:
“Personal websites and blogs that contain sports content are not permitted”
Sounds pretty harsh and at first read it makes you want to say, “wow ESPN, you guys are idiots.” However, I think the more important thing to look at is why this decision was made. It’s tough to agree or disagree with such policies without really understanding what’s going on internally.
- Have employees divulged some sort of sports secrets when they weren’t supposed to?
- Has their been any company/brand reputation damage done to ESPN because of someone else’s personal blog?
- How is ESPN going to monitor and track everyone else’s blog?
- Have sales somehow been drastically affected because of personal blogs or websites?
Again, I’m not saying that anyone of the above justifies what ESPN has done, but we really need to understand why these decisions were made and what the goals of those decisions are.
IBM has been praised for having a great social media policy, and I agree, it is a great policy; but that’s what works for IBM.
I don’t think that telling companies that they “are doing it wrong” is going to help anyone. Perhaps it’s also up to the companies to clearly explain why they are implementing the policies that they are, but it’s also our responsibility as marketers to not be so quick to judge and criticize. We need to understand what’s going on internally within an organization and why certain decisions are made.
What are your thoughts on this?