If your business is like most others today, it is active on social media. But, along with branding and engagement comes potential pitfalls. Do you have a social media policy?
Many businesses are discovering that embracing social media on both a corporate as well as employee level can benefit their companies. In addition to the ability to post company news and updates, and engaging with customers and followers, social media offers great channels for brand building brand and nurturing a loyal customer community.
However, the public nature of social media and the ease of access among staff and employees means that, without clear policies, what employees post can create embarrassment for the company and possibly legal or security issues.
It is essential, therefore, to develop a comprehensive social media policy that includes guidelines and best practices for your managers and workers.
What is a Social Media Policy
Simply put, a social media policy is an organization’s guidance and rules for employee use of social media while at the workplace or during normally schedule working hours. Social media, in this context, would include blogs, wikis, message boards, chat rooms, e-newsletters, online forums, social networking sites, and other online sites.
A media policy is essentially your business code of conduct, informing people in your organization know how to act on social media.
A formal definition provided by Tech Target’s Search Compliance website reads:
“A social media policy (also called a social networking policy) is a corporate code of conduct that provides guidelines for employees who post content on the Internet either as part of their job or as a private person.”
It’s estimated that, within any organization, ninety percent of the employees will have at least one personal social media account. And because many jobs require Internet access and almost every employee brings a smart phone or other mobile device to work, this creates the need for a social media policy.
What Should Be in a Social Media Policy
While there is no standardized, or legally required format for a social media policy manual, some best practices have evolved since the inception of social media. Here is a generic outline of topics that should be included in a social media policy document:
- General Guidelines
- Rules and Regulations
- Roles and Responsibilities
- Legal Risks with Social Media
- Security Risks
In addition, a post from the Forbes Human Resources Council offers some items they believe a policy statement should cover:
Educating Employees About Social Media
A social media policy should make sure that employees are educated to understand the social media platform they are using.
Reminding Employees Of Blurred Personal/Professional Lines
How one represents themselves on a "personal" social media account can often bleed over to their "professional" interests.
Presenting Views In A Professional Manner
Social media is a great tool to develop a personal brand by establishing a positive reputation.
Respecting Professional Boundaries
Employers and employees need to respect the professional boundaries of co-workers.
Keeping Workplace Issues Or Conflicts Confidential
Conflict in the workplace is practically inevitable, but how those issues are dealt with is in each team member's control
Clarifying Whose Opinion Is Expressed
Since so much of our work and personal lives can overlap, it is important to make it clear who we are representing — our company or ourselves.
Representing An Employer Across All Platforms
A social media policy should apply to all platforms, and ultimately everything employees post online.
Non-Disclosing Confidential Or Proprietary Info
Businesses should clearly state that employees should not disclose company info that is confidential or proprietary.
Here is a graphic guide to social media policy essentials:
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Legal Requirements for Social Media Policies
A quick Internet search will reveal that employee lawsuits and labor relations claims have arisen from poorly worded or executed social media policies. This is due in part to the fact that much of what can or cannot be prohibited is dictated by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the standards set forth in the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
Avoiding legal conflicts with the wording of your company’s social media policy and the mandates of the NLRA is critical. For example, a recent article in the Akron Legal News noted,
“Kevin Day, an associate in the Youngstown office of Harrington, Hoppe & Mitchell said workplace policies must avoid using broad language. “For example, an employer cannot simply forbid the dissemination of ‘misleading or disparaging’ information on social media,” said Day. “However, a policy forbidding the spread of hostile and malicious statements that are designed to harm a company’s reputation would likely pass the board’s muster.”
Webber said the words ‘confidential information’ are one of the top phrases that can get an employer in trouble if not carefully explained. “The test under the NLRA is whether an employee could reasonably construe the term or phrase to prohibit them from engaging in ‘protected concerted activity,’ such as activity pertaining to discussions about wages and benefits,” she said.
“Adding language to define that the dissemination of confidential information includes information like trademark and company business secrets, as opposed to only saying ‘confidential information’ can go a long way to clarifying that the policy is not intended to prohibit them from disclosing information about the terms and conditions of their employment.”
While it may seem counter-intuitive to employers, even the prohibiting of posting false information can be a violation of the NLRA. These actions are allowable, under the NLRA, if they are not posted maliciously. This means that employers should include the phrase ‘maliciously false information’ in any policy statement.
A good practice when drafting company media policies is to add disclaimers that go beyond statements such as “this policy does not prohibit ‘protected concerted activity’ under Section 7 of the NLRA.”
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) provides a sample social media policy document that was deemed lawful by the National Labor Relations Board by the standards set forth in the NLRA. A copy can be downloaded here.
HR Management and Employee Policies
Outsourcing HR functions is an increasingly common strategy for small businesses and the advantages are worth asking about. In addition to reducing your in-house costs, increasing accuracy and security, you can also benefit by freeing your HR resources for improving operational functions, recruiting efforts, policy manuals and training.
For example, with payroll management, you have a number of options for your HR and payroll staff. Software that can be installed in-house, or cloud-based programs offer a good alternative. But if you really want to take full advantage of the benefits available to you, outsourcing to a provider like Accuchex can still be the best decision.
Reliability, full-service options, and reputation are the hallmarks of a quality HR management service provider. If you are currently looking to invest in outsourcing you get your free California Labor Law guide to help you make an informed decision or call Accuchex Payroll Management Services at 877-422-2824.