These words are my own

A disclaimer that reads something like this sits in many user bios on social sites: "These words are my own."

What this generally means is that although the user has identified him/herself as an employee of a particular corporation, they are participating in social media whether or not the activity is officially sanctioned by their employer.

The problem is, it's a CYA statement that really doesn't matter. If a person uses their corporate affiliation to build credibility, further association of published content with brand is impossible to ignore.

Here, try this. Don't think about a giraffe. In fact, here's one that's trying to hide, which might help you avoid the thought:

View full size on Flickr

Now think about an animal. Any animal. Giraffe?

An employee doesn't need to be discussing internal operations or other official business to create external impressions of the brand. Once the connection has been established, it persists.

So why do people publish these disclaimers? Because like email footer disclaimers, people see other people using them. Now think about an animal. Any animal. Lemming?

Successful social business isn't the hokey-pokey. Companies and their people can't have one foot in, one foot out. Policy and training enable employees to participate in online conversations with authenticity – not depending on flimsy disclaimers and using their own words.

0 Replies to “These words are my own”

  1. Hey Pete,

    This is a great topic. Before my SXSW panel on personal brands, I reached out to our corporate lawyer and asked him if these statements help, and, if so, who do they help and in what circumstance? I suspected he’d say they weren’t worth the pixels they are printed on, but he didn’t. He said (and I am only translating here) they can help the company (not individual) protect itself should a staffer say something with legal implications online. It probably wouldn’t help if an executive said something – or a spokesperson / social media head – given that their job is to represent the company (much like it wouldn’t help, say, a politician). But when it comes to staff, it’s still a reasonable practice. -Joe

  2. I helped our company develop its corporate Social Media Policy last year, and we included this disclaimer language in our guidelines for all employees. Sure, it’s in part to protect the company against liability for something an employee might post. It’s also works in conjunction with FTC transparency guidelines, that anyone being paid to post on behalf of the company clearly indicates that fact. And it actually helps protect employees’ rights to free speech in a way, by helping delineate what they’re saying on behalf of the company from what they’re saying as a private citizen on their own time.

    When I was benchmarking how other companies handle this, my favorite guideline was from Microsoft, which recommends that employees start their personal posts with “IMHO” (see http://socialmediagovernance.com/MSFT_Social_Media_Policy.pdf, page 8). I love that a texting acronym can now serve as a legal disclaimer…

  3. I’m no legal expert, but…I think the CYA disclaimer is kind of a good thing. While false security, it has for a decade now encouraged people to be a little more human and experimental on the web. That history inherently has influenced overall culture and standards for the better. Expectations, laws and policies are perhaps a little more accommodating, though certainly lagging norms.

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