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Let’s Get Social

A person using social media at work.

In today’s world, social media is being used by many people in our society, and on a daily or regular basis. With employee usagesocialpolicies1 of social media on the rise, it’s important that you have a social media policy in place so that your company’s brand won’t be negatively affected by your employees. We’ve seen cases such as Burger King or Taco Bell, where employees have posted negative videos relating their food and working conditions, and the videos went viral immediately and negatively affected sales. We also saw a social media case with HMV of UK, where employees actually took over the company twitter account and then started publicly posting complaints about a large company-wide layoff.While it increased their company following, it negatively affected their brand. We’d like to give you a few tips on how you can have an effective social media policy in place to keep your company’s brand in a positive lighting without overstepping any boundaries.

There Are Limits

Your employees have a voice, and you can’t just completely take away their right to freedom of speech, and you can’t entirely limit their actions on social networking either. Here are some of the reasons that the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) has already found some employee policies to be in violation of the law, according to The Labor Dish:

  • Prohibit posts that are inaccurate or misleading or that contain offensive, demeaning or inappropriate remarks;
  • Prohibit posts discussing non-public information, confidential information, and legal matters;
  • Threaten employees with discipline or criminal prosecution for failing to report violations of an unlawful social media policy;socialpolicy3
  • Prohibit the use of the employer’s logos or trademarks;
  • Discourage employees from “friending” co-workers;
  • Prohibit online discussion with government agencies concerning the company; and
  • Prohibit employees from making statements that are detrimental, disparaging or defamatory to the employer or discussing workplace dissatisfaction

Remember, it is in fact legal for an employee to vent about their employer on social media if they speak for a number of employees and their intention is to improve the quality or conditions of their job. We suggest that part of your policy states that if an employee has a problem with work conditions, seek out management in order to address the problem before looking at other methods of filing complaints. Requesting things like password access to personal accounts is also prohibited. Also, if you were to terminate an employee, be sure to change your social network passwords if the employee had any access prior to the termination, so that you don’t end up in a similar situation to the HMV case.

Creating a Successful Social Media Policy

Let’s go over a few key points that your social media policy should cover, in order to protect the brand of your company. First of all, you need to set guidelines as to how you define social media with your team, and let them know that any in-person policy of the company holds true online or digitally as well. Have your employees treat vendors, clients, customers, and anyone else in your market space with respect, so that they don’t unintentionasocialpolicy2lly burn any bridges.  Your employees should speak with honesty and respect, especially in the case where they are sharing a news update or detailed information.  Their content needs to be appropriate, and anything deemed confidential (clearly define what is considered confidential information with your employees), offensive, and/or illegal should be restricted.  Be sure to let your employees know that they speak with their own personal voice on their individual networks, and not to speak as a company spokesperson on their networks. Also, be sure they aren’t accessing their personal networks while they are on the clock, unless it’s a part of their job description, or they can be held accountable for lost work hours. Lastly, be sure that your employees thoroughly understand your guidelines, by requiring a signature on the documentation or putting a training program in place.

Overall, be sure to be specific, definitive, and encouraging when enforcing a social media policy. Having a policy in place can seriously protect your brand, and allow you to follow up misdemeaning social media behavior with punishment up to termination. We’d hate to see you have to let go of an employee due to inappropriate behavior, but we’d rather you stay safe than sorry. Be sure to implement a social media policy for your company if you haven’t done so already.

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