In a previous post, we discussed the most common social media pitfalls and “what if” scenarios that can cause headaches for businesses. Many of these pitfalls and awkward scenarios could be avoided if companies developed and implemented a formal social media policy. Despite a number of high profile social media gaffes, however, most organizations have yet to introduce a social media policy.
According to the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s 2013 study of social media usage by Inc. Magazine’s 500 fastest growing companies, only 31 percent of these companies have a written social media policy. That number is actually down from 36 percent in the 2009 study.
There are a number of factors to consider when developing your organization’s social media policy, including but not limited to:
Roles and Responsibilities
By clarifying who is permitted to post and comment on behalf of your organization, you can reduce the risk of employees “going rogue.” Having at least two administrators for every social media account can prevent confusion or disputes that may arise should a disgruntled employee leave the company.
Who Owns What
Clarification of ownership of social media pages, accounts, content, and contacts is critical. For example, suppose an employee creates and manages a blog for the company, but no agreement of ownership exists. If that employee leaves the company, you may have to pay a hefty price to acquire ownership of all blog content and subscriber information.
A social media policy should include guidelines about what topics, language, and personal information are off limits. Confidential and proprietary information and trade secrets should never be posted on any social media platform.
Posts that include private information or defamatory statements can have legal consequences if not removed immediately. A social media policy should include processes for monitoring and removing potentially problematic content. Plenty of free online tools are available for social media monitoring.
Employees should understand that industry regulations must be followed on social media. It’s a good idea to incorporate social media into compliance training so employees understand the rules, risks and consequences.
Although social media sharing is encouraged by organizations, you need to be careful about what you share and what others share on your company pages. Permission to use a child’s photo in a brochure doesn’t automatically give you a green light to post the photo on Facebook. Regulated industries should avoid sharing any customer or patient information.
A social media policy must respect the rights of the employee while protecting the interests of the organization. For example, you may not want employees complaining about long hours and a difficult boss on social media, but it’s not something you can enforce in your social media policy. Disciplining or firing an employee for this reason may be a violation of the National Labor Relations Act.
Social media and the rules that govern the various platforms are constantly evolving. Contact Whitehouse & Cooper to review your social media policy and help you better understand the legal issues that should be taken into consideration when using social media.
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