Every employer should have a social media policy in place as a guideline for employees and as protection for their company. Why? Social Media has become a medium that opens up employers to a litany of ways in which they can be held liable for their employees actions. See Managing Employee Use of Social Media for information on employee use and possible liabilities. Whether you have a policy in place or are looking to create one from scratch, here are some helpful tips to get you started.
Online magazine, Inc warns that “A social media policy can be a company’s first line of defense to mitigate risk for both employer and employee. You may already have a confidentiality agreement but it might not be enough. Adding a few lines in the employee handbook to clarify that the confidentiality agreement covers employee interactions on social media sites might suffice. But it is advised to create a separate social media policy to have something.”
Suggested social media policy examples are:
• Employee Code of Conduct for Online Communications
• Employee Code of Conduct for Company Representation in Online Communications
• Employee Blogging Disclosure Policy
• Employee Facebook Usage Policy
• Employee Personal Blog Policy
• Employee Personal Social Network Policy
• Employee Personal Twitter Policy
• Employee LinkedIn Policy
• Corporate Blogging Policy
• Corporate Blog Use Policy
• Corporate Blog Post Approval Process
• Corporate Blog Commenting Policy
• Corporate Facebook Brand Page Usage Policy
• Corporate Facebook Public Comment/Messaging Policy
• Corporate Twitter Account Policy
• Corporate YouTube Policy
• Corporate YouTube Public Comment Policy
• Company Password Policy
While creating all of these policies may not be feasible (or realistic), it gives an idea of how different each site/topic can be in terms of its impact on an organization. Bloomberg Law provides a list of steps to take when creating your policy:
1. Do Not Prohibit Protected or Concerted Activity. Under the NLRA, employees have the right to post or carry on conversations on social media sites regarding wage and working conditions. The policy should indicate that protected speech cannot be censored by an employer.
2. Personal Complaints and Offensive Remarks Are Not Protected. Make it clear that legally protected activity does not include personal complaints or gripes; nor does it protect an employee’s offensive, demeaning, defamatory, abusive, or inappropriate remarks.
3. Be Specific. A poorly drafted, overly broad policy could leave you subject to liability for potentially violating employee rights.
4. Requiring Disclaimers on Certain Posts Is Acceptable. Employers can require employees to include disclaimers on their postings, such as, “The postings on this site are my own and do not represent the employer’s positions, strategies, or opinions,” if the postings directly or indirectly relate to the employer.
5. Prevent Bullying, Discrimination, and Harassment. Social media can become a forum for inappropriate, unwelcome remarks about employees by supervisors, or among co-workers. Be clear in your social media policy that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated.
6. Comply With State and Federal Laws. Remind employees not to post any information or engage in any online activity that violates applicable local, state, or federal laws.
7. Be Careful About What Gets Posted About the Company. Blogs and social media website postings may be reviewed, copied, and disseminated by others, including competitors. LinkedIn specifically is a great way to share exciting company news—just make sure the news is not proprietary or shared prematurely.
8. Make Clear Who Owns Certain Material. Employers need to clearly describe in their social media policies what materials belong to the company and what belongs to the employee. Blog posts created during nonworking hours on topics unrelated to the business typically belong to the employee.
9. Protect Confidential Trade Secrets. Protect confidential, proprietary information by instituting a social media policy that prohibits unauthorized dissemination.
10. Educate and Enforce. Educate the workforce and make the policy readily available; then monitor and enforce the policy, and update it regularly.
Any well-written policy spells out to employees what they should and shouldn’t do. Creating a policy is essential and having an attorney or company legal representative look over the final draft is definitely recommended. Make sure employees understand the policy that is being implemented. Signing the policy yearly will ensure it is fresh on everyone’s minds, and will also give company’s a chance to roll out any policy changes that may be made from year-to-year.
For more recruiting and engagement strategies, continue on in the Social Media Series for articles about: LinkedIn. Facebook. Twitter. Google+. YouTube. Pinterest. Instagram. Yammer. Quora, Dribbble, and GitHub. Also look at Managing Employee Use of Social Media and Social Media Branding and Marketing Strategies.