The Fundamentals of a Successful Corporate Social Media Policy

The Fundamentals of a Successful Corporate Social Media Policy

The most recent statistics report that LinkedIn now has over 100,000,000 users and Twitter has over 175.000.000. But Facebook leads the pack with over 640,000,000 users – that is more than double the population of the complete United States!

So what does that have to do with work, you may ask? Well, consider these incredible statistics as reported last year by Network Box, an online internet security firm:

An examination of over 13 billion business URLs in 2010 indicates that almost 7 percent of all business internet traffic goes to Facebook. The report also shows that 10 percent of all corporate bandwidth is used on YouTube!

The bottom line – the chances are, on any given work day, your employees are online. Whether your corporate culture embraces social media, or despises it (or simply doesn’t understand it), it is crucial to implement a social media policy in the workplace. Any business that does not have a substantial policy in place, or doesn’t aim its employees on the do’s and don’ts of social networking as it relates to the company, exposes themselves to meaningful risks. Beyond disparaging remarks or negative press, this can include opening its doors to the release of trade secrets or secret information.

There are several venues now for electronic and social media, and businesses should have a policy in place that addresses each one.

  1. Social Media Guidelines: The Social Media Guidelines address the posting on a company-sponsored website. Your company may have a Facebook, MySpace or Twitter page and employees are allowed to post comments and interact with customers and clients by this medium.
  2. Blogging: Blogging is the posting of information on either a personal or someone else’s site, web log, journal etc and also includes posting opinions on YouTube, Twitter, bulletin boards, chat rooms, etc. It is on-duty and directly relates to the business of the company
  3. Social Networking: Social Networking addresses how employees represent the company or speak of the company while they are off duty
  4. Electronic Media: The Electronic media and monitoring policy is about how employees use the company character issued to them, whether it is a PC or a laptop, Blackberry, mobile phone or office phone, stationary or mobile equipment. This policy addresses the appropriate use of the equipment, and the understanding that because it is company character, there should be a greatly reduced – or zero – expectation of privacy.

The law permits employers to control and already prohibit employees from engaging in online social networking activities while on company time, character or business. It is also appropriate to LIMIT employees from posting disparaging comments or discussing company business while social networking by adopting a policy making it clear that such conduct is inappropriate. Again, the objective is to lower the expectations of privacy of employees when implementing these policies.

Other Factors to Consider

The wording of the policy may vary depending upon your industry and business but there are certain basic fundamentals to keep in mind:

  1. First and foremost: While shared sense may make sense to you, always have legal counsel look over your policy before distributing it to your staff.
  2. Keep the social media actions in line with existing company policies regarding use of the company’s electronic media (phones and computers), confidentiality of company information, and all laws regarding harassment and discrimination.
  3. Similar to other corporate policies, other off-limits or inappropriate social networking behaviors would include, profane, vulgar, defamatory, threatening, harassing, hateful, abusive, bullying or embarrassing comments or postings about other employees.
  4. Employees are expected to be respectful of the company’s products, and sets. Though discussion of pay or policies may be protected activities, running down the quality of service or products should be disciplinary issues
  5. Let employees know that information regarding the company’s clients, business partners, or details of projects and plans are off limits.
  6. Specifically state that use of protected logos and trademarks is banned.
  7. If an employee identifies themselves as a company employee, or discusses matters related to the company on a social media, require that the site must include a disclaimer on the front page stating that it does not express the view of the company and these are strictly personal opinions and views.
  8. Finally it should be clearly stated in the policy that they should expect compliance monitoring without prior notice.

The prospect of creating and introducing a social media policy may seem daunting, if not down-right impossible at first, but don’t underestimate its importance. With social media gaining momentum both off-site, and on the job, the time to begin working on a plan is now. Always consult with legal counsel or a specialized knowledgeable in labor and employment laws if you need help, but get started today!

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