Why Gap’s Social Media Policy is NOT a Model to Follow

originally posted on Concept Hub

Last week, all through my Google Alerts I kept seeing articles from around the web praising Gap’s social media guidelines as the model to follow. I saved a couple of the articles so that I could review them this weekend, take notes, and help my clients model the success that so many thought Gap had found.

I just read through Ragan’s highlights and learned that the actual policy is not public for me to review. However what Ragan is celebrating the success of the policy is exactly what I tend to tell my clients does not work.

If you have heard me speak, you may have heard me tell this story, but here it goes again.

Throughout college, which took me 8 years, I worked at Bennigan’s as a waitress. Many people who are younger than me do not know what Bennigan’s is, but if you have seen the movie Office Space, this was me…


We were told that if we served alcohol to people who were under-age, the restaurant would get fined and could be closed down and we could lose our job.

Now let me relate that message to one of the messages in the Gap guidelines…

“These guidelines are important—because if you don’t follow them a few things could happen: your posts can get deleted, we could lose customers and investors, we could get in trouble, or, worst of all, you could even lose your job … So do the right thing, stick to the guidelines.”

Similar, right?

Here was the problem. As servers, we got really busy. We were working for tips. And overall we were not really loyal to our company. So if we were too busy to check an I.D. we did not check an I.D.

In any corporate job, your employees are looking out for themselves, trying to solve their problems, and more often than not seeking to establish their own voice online. They are not loyal to your brand.

So what should you do?

Stop thinking that your social media policy should focus on your corporate brand and start helping your staff consider their own personal brand.

In Florida, which is where I worked as a waitress, they decided to make each server individually licensed to sell alcohol. We each had to go through a certification training and if we were caught selling alcohol to someone underage or anyone who should have been cut off, WE as individuals could get fined, go to jail, and lose our license to sell alcohol.

We all started taking the time to check IDs which in turn benefited the restaurants.

If you focus your policy and training on helping your team to protect their personal brand and not focus so much on your corporate brand, your team will pay attention to what you have to say and will even appreciate your willingness to look out for their best interest. I call this the “brand you” campaign. I have been saying for years and repeated it just recently, but if you want to protect your brand in the age of social media you have to go beyond your social media policy.