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Why You Need a Social Media Policy

Nowadays, almost everybody has some form of social media profile. And many employees are not aware of what is appropriate when it comes to using social media in the office or posting about their jobs or employers. This is why it is essential for every business, no mater what its size, to have a social media policy.

 

When a Cisco employee discovered the tweet, the company rescinded the offer and a whirlwind of publicity ensued.

Since then, employee terminations over controversial social media posts have been increasing in almost every industry and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has been cracking down on employers in order to define when it is legal to terminate an employee over speech which is protected in Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). There is definitely a gray area when it comes to disciplining employees over social media behavior and this is why having a social media policy can assist the employer if an employee is jeopardizing the organization’s reputation or legal responsibilities.

While you could just simply state, “Be mature, be ethical, and think before you type”, it is often better to be thorough in your policy should an incident happen and an employee becomes disgruntled. So here are 5 things to include in your social media policy:

1. Define the purpose of the policy.

Here is an example: The purpose of this policy is to ensure that the company’s employees understand their obligations when using social media, such as Facebook, twitter, and blogs (both personal and professional). And to ensure that employees are informed of the importance of managing the risks associated with such use that may impact on the reputation of the company and/or the safety of its employees and that may result in a breach of the company’s Conduct of Conduct and, policies, procedures or instructions. This policy is for the mutual protection of the company and its employees and is not intended to prevent, discourage or unduly limit employees’ expression of personal opinion or online activities.

2. Define what is acceptable and what is not.

When it comes to social media, there are two many concerns: how employees are spending their time online while at work and how employees are portraying your company online when they are not at work. It is important to state what is ok and what is not ok. Keep in mind that if you do not allow social media posting to occur while on the clock and also state that one cannot post negatively about the company, you have to police both equally. If you let one employee post during work hours and then discipline another for posting negatively about the company, it is not consistent and could be considered discriminatory. So only disallow what you can effectively policy and enforce.

3. Protect confidential and proprietary info.

While a restaurant may think that employee’s intuitively know not to share a secret recipe, it is important to lay it out clearly. Here is an example: Do not disclose the Company’s confidential or proprietary information, or personal identifying information of anyone at the Company, in online postings or publications. Sharing these types of information, even unintentionally, could result in harm to the Company and legal action against you or the Company.

4. Protect your customers.

Define how clients are to interact with customers online and also how employees are allowed to talk about customer interactions. A great example of this, is should wait staff be allowed to post a customer’s receipt?

5. Refer back to your code of conduct policy.

If an employee is posting on behalf of the company or about the company on their personal channel that make sure to refer to your code of conduct, the same rules should stand online.

As social media is a relatively new topic, a lot of legislation is unclear. As such, Focus HR supports our clients by monitoring developments in the area of social media’s impact in the workplace. Certified HR professionals are available to advise on how to handle employment matters that may arise and will also draft appropriate workplace policies. For more info or advice, give us a call at 520-721-6777.

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