Olympics Rule 40 Lesson on Finding the Sweet Spot With Your Social Media Policy
When you have something of value, you take care of it. You protect it.
So it’s no surprise that the International Olympic Committee has taken action to put some guard rails up in attempts to control one of the most powerful forces at work today, social media.
As the London 2012 Games near their end, it’s becoming clear that athletes, especially American athletes and track and field athletes, hold a special contempt for IOC’s Rule 40.
Rule 40, and in particular the “IOC Social Media, Blogging and Internet Guidelines for participants and other accredited persons at the London 2012 Olympic Games” that are incorporated in Rule 40, prohibit athletes from mentioning their sponsors in blogs, tweets or posts.
“Ambush marketers have, in the past, used their association with athletes and NGBs to suggest or imply that they have an association with the Olympic Games.”
That undermines the exclusive arrangements that the Games make with sponsors and partners.
In countries like the United States where training is not state sponsored, athletes’ survival depends on sponsors.
The gag rule kills athletes’ one great opportunity to use social media to thank sponsors and enhance relationships that could lead to, of course, more sponsorship money.
Preparing for the Olympics is not cheap. One news report says gymnast Gabrielle Douglas’ mother has filed for bankruptcy. The same story indicates that parents of swimmer Ryan Lochte are facing foreclosure in Florida.
The #Rule 40 and #WeDemandChange hashtags being used to protest the gag will likely have no effect.
Until the IOC sees that athletes’ use of social media can create even more value (rather that eroding value in their exclusive arrangements), Rule 40 won’t change.
Athletes’ protests will only gain traction when the viewing public joins them by turning off the TV. That isn’t going to happen.
I think there’s a lesson here for businesses.
Social media are powerful. They can be used to find and keep paying customers; and more importantly, deepen relationships with customers.
Something this powerful can’t be left to chance. Your business, like the IOC, needs an enforceable social media policy your employees can understand and support.
If you over-reach and infringe on employees’ strongly felt freedoms (and even legal rights), you can easily erase all the benefits of social media.
The Olympic Games are too big to fail. The IOC won’t change its policy until it sees a reason to.
But most businesses I work with can be hurt by employees with a legitimate beef about too much restriction.
So, if you’re not using social media to engage your community, start. If your company doesn’t have a social media policy, get some advice and put one in place.
But be sure it doesn’t contain provisions that are illegal or so distasteful that employees will use social media to publicly demonstrate that your business is not social at all.
For more on how your social media policy can over step the law, see Why Your Social Media Policy May Be Illegal.