Most businesses have a social media presence and even if you are not participating, your employees are surely using it leading to potential liabilities. Now is the time to take a step back to determine how you will handle social media to mitigate risk and make sure you are properly engaging your employees.
For those of you that are actively engaging in social media, various risks should be considered – from who owns and manages company profiles, the content you are producing, the channels you are using as well as how you are going to handle privacy breaches.
Drafting Your Social Media Policy
Don’t think of your social media policy as only a punitive document, outlining infractions, punishments, and other scary things. Make sure to address and encourage proper usage and interaction with your company social media profiles.
Remember the goal of your social media policy is not only to keep the company out of trouble but to further develop employee engagement.
- Employee Bill of Rights: A simple start is communicating that your business values employees’ personal rights.
- Emphasize that all employees have the right to use social media for self-expression on their own time.
- Include a right to digital privacy – the company will not bypass security or privacy settings of a social site to view employee content that is not available publicly.
- Explain what online harassment and bullying is and that it is not considered acceptable by your company. (It may be a good idea to reference an overall harassment policy and restate the existence of any one-strike harassment policy that is applicable.)
- Internal Usage Guidelines: It is important to clearly define usage rights during work hours.
- Specify whether social media is allowed during work hours, and/or using company equipment. A compromise may be allowing employees to use social media during lunch and break times, so long as it is not disruptive to other employees.
- If personal usage is not allowed during work hours, specify what constitutes acceptable business use by your employees.
- Include security rules and protocols for downloading files, videos, third-party software, etc.
- External Usage Guidelines: Any issue regarding employee conduct outside of work hours is complicated, and law is still developing. Consider if the following guidelines may be right for your company.
- For employees with a social media role in the company, the line between business and personal use can easily be blurred. Remind these employees how their social media activity will affect the company’s reputation. (For example, a real estate agent who uses her Facebook profile page for both personal and business promotion.)
- For employees with personal social media accounts, urge caution if they have public posts/profiles. Encourage employees to use good judgement to avoid risking their reputation – or their job. Remember that your company cannot legally create “fake” profiles to attempt to gain access to view social media profiles/posts marked as private. Because this area is especially problematic, be sure to have legal counsel review your language.
- Social Media confidentiality and nondisclosure guidelines
- Revealing any confidential company or client information online should be prohibited, even in a private forum or message, as the security of the site could be compromised. (For example, sending information over a Facebook message instead of your company email.)
- Emphasize that your company policies related to confidentiality and nondisclosure apply to social media as well.
- Official communication guidelines
- Have a policy in place regarding ownership of accounts and followers for all employees using social media for business purposes. Lawsuits have sprung from this issue, where employees leaving a company tried to take their account and followers resulting in the company suing. Having a policy in place makes it easier to enforce later.
- Discuss what is expected of employees when they represent the company on social networks. Include policies, procedures, do’s and don’ts, and examples so that employees know their expectations and responsibilities in their social media role.
After you have developed your social media policy, make sure to distribute to all existing and new employees. A form requiring a signature of their consent is a good idea, this may a form that refers to their acknowledgment of your entire handbook. It may also be in your best interest to hold social media employee training to supplement this policy.
As with all of your business’s policies, be sure to have trusted legal counsel review your social media policy in full before publishing. Remember that the National Labor Relations Act limits your ability to retaliate against an employee for protected concerted activity. If an employee uses social media to address certain employment concerns, disciplinary action could potentially violate federal law, even if a union is not involved.
Examples from Top Companies
Adidas Group Social Media Guidelines: A fully comprehensive look at social media use for employees but still easy to digest at only two pages. Notable areas include their discussion of official spokespersons and other employees, internal use only, and common sense.
Best Buy Social Media Policy: This is a shorter policy, that can be commended for its readability. It is broken up into dos and don’ts with short snippets of information. Even though this policy is shorter than some of the other examples, it still addresses many social media concerns.
Los Angeles Times: This policy demonstrates a good use of references to other sections of their employee guidelines. Referencing how your social media policy is an extension of other policies makes it easier for employees to understand and makes for a successful communication of your business’s principles.
New York City Department of Education Social Media Guidelines: It’s no surprise that this education system has a very extensive and formal social media policy. It’s a good example of how your employee guidelines should match your culture, industry, and community interaction.
Shift Communications Social Media Guidelines: This Top 10 list is a great option for a short and simple policy that hits most areas of concern. We especially like number ten, “Google has a long memory.”
After considering legal implications and employee roles, you can craft a social media policy as comprehensive and professional as these top examples. HR consulting including assistance with employee handbooks is a part of Austin Benefits Group’s services. If you’re interested in how Michigan’s premier employee benefits agency can support your business contact us today.