Should CEOs Post Photos on Facebook?

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My co-worker over at The Hiring Site sent me an interesting article this morning about a CEO named Chip Conley posting some questionable photos on his Facebook site. I think it’s going to spark an interesting discussion…

Background: Conley is the CEO and founder of Joie de Vivre, a company that operates a collection of boutique hotels in California. He started the business 22 years ago when he was just out of college. Today, it’s a $230 million company with more than 3,000 employees and 38 properties.

In a recent article on BNet.com, Conley discusses how his PR agency recently set up a Facebook page for him, along with a fan page, to promote his new book.

“I accepted pretty much anyone who “friended” me, including plenty of employees, and gradually I began posting the usual Facebook fodder — links to articles, quick takes on books, emotional missives. My profile picture — a business-casual blazer-and-collared-shirt look — was uploaded by my PR team as well,” Conley said.

While meeting with his “cultural ambassadors” — employees who represent each hotel — to create a social media policy for the company, an issue was brought to his attention: His employees were uncomfortable with some of Conley’s Facebook photos.

The controversy: You see, Conley recently attended Burning Man, a weeklong anything-goes festival. Upon his return, he posted six photos on his Facebook page, two of which show him shirtless. In one photo, Conley dons a tutu; in the other, a sarong. In addition to posting these to his page, he also changed his profile picture from a professional shot to one of said shirtless pictures. (See below).

Conley

Of choosing this picture, he says:

“I’m just not a blazer kind of guy. I consider myself a rebel. My first book —The Rebel Rules: Daring to Be Yourself in Business — preaches the value of authenticity in business, of being true to yourself. So a few pictures on my Facebook page that show me having a good time? I honestly didn’t give it a second thought.”

His employees, however, did give it a second thought. At the meeting to discuss the company’s social media policy, Conley was told that his young staff members didn’t like seeing their CEO in a tutu. He was also told that staffers were concerned about some of his Twitter updates, in which he expressed anguish over the demise of an eight-year relationship.  Essentially, employees felt that Conley was setting a double standard by creating a social media policy at the company for everyone except him.

Conley doesn’t feel he is violating any policy; he stands by the fact that he is simply being true to himself. Plus, he attests that the social media policy is mainly to protect the guests of his hotels. If a celebrity is staying at one of his hotels as a guest, for example, his staff members aren’t allowed to Tweet about it. When it comes to posting pictures or Tweeting, Conley says it’s case by case, but for the most part, as long as an employee isn’t posting pictures of himself stealing something while wearing the company uniform, it’s considered the employee’s private life.

So, what do you guys think? Should CEOs be held to a different standard than their employees? Should they have the freedom to post whatever photos they want? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

9 Comments
  1. This is ridiculous. As long as he is not demanding otherwise from the staff, I see no reason why this CEO can’t be himself on social media too. Where is the line between work and private? Are we not entitled to a private life where we can kick back and relax?

  2. I see no problem with this and the new pic actually seems to fit his brand better. I agree with Tamara above as long as he doesnot expect something else from his staff….

  3. I agree, even CEOs have a private and often fun side. I see nothing wrong with someone being him or herself on a social website. Now if the photos were nude, then we might have a problem. A picture of someone being silly or having fun is not a problem. Good for you Chip, this shows your employees that you too are a real person.

  4. For some, Facebook is a social networking site-a way in which to stay in touch with old friends, share news about one’s life, and even meet new friends. For others, Mr. Conley included, Facebook is an employment networking tool. Where an individual, be him an entry level employee or a CEO, opts to use Facebook for the latter purpose, different expectations result.

    Had Mr. Conley kept the contents of his Facebook page private, we would be having a very different conversation. Here, however, his Facebook page was set up as a business tool. Therefore, generally, he should exhibit the same level of decorum expected of him in the office place.

    Simply, if he wouldn’t act/look/express himself like he does via Facebook while in a business setting, then he shouldn’t be doing it online.

  5. It’s not that the double standard is an actual problem. It’s that this guy’s decision making skills are so hopeless that he would rather defend his right to act like a dork than follow some basic rules of professional decorum.

  6. There are two sides to this issue. The original intent of his PR people setting a page on Facebook was from the business standpoint. Now he has brought the personal side into it. As a Director of Operations for a large corporation I would not have a public view page that included personal information. I believe that at the level Mr. Conley is at, he has a “duty” to lead by example and set the standard for those employees who look up to him. It’s a very fine line of what you expect your employees to aspire to.

  7. Pingback: Are you paying attention to your online reputation? Employers are. : The Work Buzz

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