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FBatarse    October 11, 2015


Organization Name: REI “Recreational Equipment Inc”

Industry: Recreational Retail, Outdoor/Travel Consulting

Web Reference: About REI, Employee Participation

Social Media is huge, face it! So when REI launched its affiliate program, it was a no brainer. The organization is clear to note: “you are more likely to meet an employee online in the digital media space”. However, the company is also cautious in stating that “Unless employees are authorized to represent the company in a posting, employees merely reflect their personal opinions and do not reflect REI. Catching on yet?

REI is quick to point out some of the big social platforms such as:

Reserving the right to monitor the use of online forums and violations as per the “Policy For Participation In Online Forums” may result in disciplinary action, including and up to termination of employment.  Serious lingo, right? For all the right reasons of course. Previous horror stories stemming from the inappropriate use of social media platforms are plastered over the world wide web. REI has an approach 180 degrees different than most of the firms in the market place which clearly outline that posting on company product reviews/surveys is forbidden. Code Of Conduct, Ethical Online Policy, Intranet/Internet Policy and no matter which way  you blend it, you run into red tape.

REI image

How Does REI use social media to better performance?

Bad experience, tell 100 friends! One good experience and tell no one? REI understands the importance of online communities and the urge consumers have to share their experience .

-Why not provide a backbone for employees to share their experience?
-A community to share similar interests or ask questions?
-Common platform for job aids & product features via sales hub

The resolution? Empower your employees via REI community blogs, customer engagement & product differentiation debates. According to the Employee Participation policy, REI encourages their staff to express themselves in online forums.


3 Guidelines to get you by:

  1. Personal Activities – Employees must recognize that online participation on forums is “personal”, not endorsed or approved by the firm. Any postings are the authors responsibility and REI is not to be held accountable.
    REI-Related Posts: If the author is publishing or posting online, they must clearly identify that this is a personal posting, not representing the company. Community Participation: Users can log onto Each registrant is identified by a badge, indicating that do not speak on behalf of the organization. The community is also used for prizing and competitive contests to spread product knowledge, quiz employees about new changes and promote new products.
    Posting On Other REI Channels: Employees are expected to use clarifying statements to identify that the posting is a personal reflection, not the firms view.
    Information from Other Employees: Before circulating postings or citied work from other employees, the individual needs to clearly identify the original author. Corporate Statements and Responses: The REI Public Affairs Department can assistant anyone via employee handbook standards (Living our Values).
  2. Conducting REI-Related Business – Only company endorsed networks that meet information security standards and legal department requirements may be used. Using unauthorized networks puts the company at risk and is prohibited.
  3. Common Sense – Good judgement and common sense are suggested to avoid complication for the author & REI. Management, HR Reps and additional resources are available to all employees at any time for advice, legal aid and policy clarification.

Lessons for the competition:

Your employees are the tip of the ice-berg. Your front line soldiers, first person your customer interacts with and your live product advocate. As social media continues to drive traffic to blogs, product review forums, commercial retailer links and preferred vendor sites, employees are still at the forefront. Empowering the work force to engage in new communicational platforms while clearly setting out a clear and transparent policy to uphold company values is key. Allowing your employees to engage consumers and product advocates is crucial to the future online business world.

Submitted By: Fadi Batarseh, University of Waterloo

To contact the author of this entry please email at:

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Programme Director, Social Media for Business Performance.