What's Your Social Media Policy?
By Luis Salazar - Infante Zumpano LLC
Are employers and their Facebook- and Twitter-loving employees headed for a run in? One recent study found that 17% of employers have had problems with employees due to misuse of social media, while 8% have actually fired employees for that misuse. These social media firings seem to draw quite a bit of attention. Many news outlets run stories about the fallout from such firings, such as a recent story highlighting a waitress fired for complaining about a meager tip.
Why You Need a Policy
As with email and internet usage, employers must take a proactive approach to managing employees and their on-line activities. For many businesses, employee social media activity may be part of their marketing efforts and should be encouraged with appropriate guidelines and goals. But overall, employers must have clear guidelines.
There are several reasons why a business might encourage employee blogging:
• Become the Expert/Thought Leader: Employee blogs and Twittering can make an employer the "go to" place for information on an industry. It is not unusual for business people to become experts – thought leaders – in their fields.
• Reaching the Customer: Social media helps personalize customer relationships and create trust with a business, which in turn drives sales.
• Puts News in its Place: Well-established blogs and Twitter accounts can place good or bad company news in context, allowing businesses to magnify the impact of good news, and mitigate the impact of bad.
• Boost Visibility: Studies show that 2/3 of all purchases – online or offline – are first researched on the web. Blogs and other social media tools help boost visibility by increasing its search engine rankings.
What Your Policy Should Contain
Whether you decide to embrace social media as part of your business or not, there are several points your policy handbook should cover. Being upfront and clear on these “Social Media basics” will help shield your business from liability and provide clear guidelines to employees.
• Keep it Confidential: An employee’s online content should never reveal trade or other company secrets – that’s a firing offense.
• It's On Your Time: If it’s not a company-sponsored outlet, employees should not be posting on company time.
• Keep it Clean: Beware of inappropriate content including off-color or possibly offensive material.
• Route the Media: If an employee posting or Tweeting generates media interest or media contact, the journalist should be referred to the company's media representative.
• Respect Authority: Social media may be the new frontier, but it’s not an entirely lawless frontier. Users still have to respect copyrights, securities laws, and avoid potential libel issues.
As with email and web-surfing, the use of social media calls for proactive, clear steps from business owners and managers. While there are many good reasons to accept and use it as part of a company’s marketing efforts, there is simply no good reason to fail to offer employees clear guidance.
By Luis Salazar
Infante Zumpano LLC
500 S. Dixie Hwy., Suite 302
Coral Gables, FL 33146
South Florida Legal Guide Midyear 2010
WHAT'S YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY?
What's Your Social Media Policy?