Social Media Policy Best Practices

Best practices for a company social media policy.

 

Businesses should have Social Media Usage Policies in their Human Resources Generated Employee Handbooks and Policy Guidelines

Businesses should have Social Media Usage Policies in their HR-Generated Employee Handbooks and Policy Guidelines

Whether you are a sole proprietorship with a single employee or a huge corporation with thousands of employees, the nature of digital communications and the prevalence of social media (SM) demands mention in the employee handbook. The policy should avoid restricting free speech, but indicate actions on company time and equipment are related to job performance and acceptable behavior.

Employees are hired with expectations they will behave professionally within a set of parameters of business-like behavior.  This assumes they will not make derogatory statements about the employer – especially on paid time or on company equipment. The First Amendment and the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) sustains the right to free speech, including discussions about employers. Companies do have an expectation of employee ‘loyalty.’  If the employee makes derogatory statements on personal time, the company may not have legal recourse. If the employee makes public, negative, or slanderous comments on SM during working hours or using company equipment, the company has every right to pursue disciplinary actions, up to and including termination.

The use of SM to those with Internet access has exponentially grown the last decade. Facebook has over a billion users, LinkedIn has 250 million users, Google and YouTube are the #1 and #2 (respectively) search engines, Instagram is the trendy photo sharing platform for young adults, and Twitter is popular for real-time news feeds. It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t use SM. Because employees use social media, it doesn’t make them smart enough to know how to use it wisely.  It only takes one person to take a screen shot (smart phone or on a PC) – even if that post is taken down almost immediately. The screen shot can be reposted and remain ‘out there’ forever.  Companies should provide ethics training annually to employees, emphasizing kindness and ethical behavior when posting to SM.

A company invests in unique designs for business branding – logos, business cards, mottos, and marketing or business development. The company doesn’t need an employee to ‘share’ trade secrets, confidential data about internal planning or goals, and marketing plans leaked to the competition. Note in the employee handbook examples of ‘not to be shared’ info, as well as specific data in confidentiality agreements.  An example would be, “There are to be no outside discussions or information shared with external entities – including social media platforms – related to company planning, marketing materials, customer lists, sales methodologies…” The policy shouldn’t be too detailed, but general enough that employees understand the importance of holding inside information confidential for a competitive advantage.

Some employees are so excited about their company’s services or products, they splash the ‘joy’ all over their SM. They are providing positive advertising for their employer so this is good for the company, right? The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) states, by law, the employee’s affiliation must be disclosed. Train employees to let the marketing department to do the public relations, branding, and marketing – something for which they were hired to perform.

Once an applicant has been identified as a viable candidate for a position, some companies now perform background checks – including SM.  If something is found (e.g., health related, union activities, religious or political leanings), and used to disqualify them, this is illegal hiring practice. If company employees complain to HR about a potential candidate’s posts on SM, proceed carefully.  It may be easier to ask the candidates to delete posts or privatize their profile (which they should have done before applying for work).

Another trend is supervisors sending ‘friend’ requests. Ensure employees they are not required to accept ‘friend’ requests from co-workers and no retaliatory actions will be tolerated. Supervisors may write recommendations for co-workers that seem like company endorsements. The business should determine if public SM recommendations are acceptable or encourage only letterhead recommendations when the employee leaves.

Social media opens up new potential liabilities for businesses.  To protect themselves they need to determine what is acceptable and offer simple guidelines to employees to review and understand.  This policy should be included in all updated employee manuals and reviewed annually for needed updates.

 

Dawn Boyer, Ph.D., owner of D. Boyer Consulting – provides resume writing, social media management and training, business development, and human resources consulting. Reach her at: Dawn.Boyer@DBoyerConsulting.com or http://dboyerconsulting.com.

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Social Media Policy Best Practices

Best practices for a company social media policy.

 

Businesses should have Social Media Usage Policies in their Human Resources Generated Employee Handbooks and Policy Guidelines

Businesses should have Social Media Usage Policies in their HR-Generated Employee Handbooks and Policy Guidelines

Whether you are a sole proprietorship with a single employee or a huge corporation with thousands of employees, the nature of digital communications and the prevalence of social media (SM) demands mention in the employee handbook. The policy should avoid restricting free speech, but indicate actions on company time and equipment are related to job performance and acceptable behavior.

Employees are hired with expectations they will behave professionally within a set of parameters of business-like behavior.  This assumes they will not make derogatory statements about the employer – especially on paid time or on company equipment. The First Amendment and the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) sustains the right to free speech, including discussions about employers. Companies do have an expectation of employee ‘loyalty.’  If the employee makes derogatory statements on personal time, the company may not have legal recourse. If the employee makes public, negative, or slanderous comments on SM during working hours or using company equipment, the company has every right to pursue disciplinary actions, up to and including termination.

The use of SM to those with Internet access has exponentially grown the last decade. Facebook has over a billion users, LinkedIn has 250 million users, Google and YouTube are the #1 and #2 (respectively) search engines, Instagram is the trendy photo sharing platform for young adults, and Twitter is popular for real-time news feeds. It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t use SM. Because employees use social media, it doesn’t make them smart enough to know how to use it wisely.  It only takes one person to take a screen shot (smart phone or on a PC) – even if that post is taken down almost immediately. The screen shot can be reposted and remain ‘out there’ forever.  Companies should provide ethics training annually to employees, emphasizing kindness and ethical behavior when posting to SM.

A company invests in unique designs for business branding – logos, business cards, mottos, and marketing or business development. The company doesn’t need an employee to ‘share’ trade secrets, confidential data about internal planning or goals, and marketing plans leaked to the competition. Note in the employee handbook examples of ‘not to be shared’ info, as well as specific data in confidentiality agreements.  An example would be, “There are to be no outside discussions or information shared with external entities – including social media platforms – related to company planning, marketing materials, customer lists, sales methodologies…” The policy shouldn’t be too detailed, but general enough that employees understand the importance of holding inside information confidential for a competitive advantage.

Some employees are so excited about their company’s services or products, they splash the ‘joy’ all over their SM. They are providing positive advertising for their employer so this is good for the company, right? The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) states, by law, the employee’s affiliation must be disclosed. Train employees to let the marketing department to do the public relations, branding, and marketing – something for which they were hired to perform.

Once an applicant has been identified as a viable candidate for a position, some companies now perform background checks – including SM.  If something is found (e.g., health related, union activities, religious or political leanings), and used to disqualify them, this is illegal hiring practice. If company employees complain to HR about a potential candidate’s posts on SM, proceed carefully.  It may be easier to ask the candidates to delete posts or privatize their profile (which they should have done before applying for work).

Another trend is supervisors sending ‘friend’ requests. Ensure employees they are not required to accept ‘friend’ requests from co-workers and no retaliatory actions will be tolerated. Supervisors may write recommendations for co-workers that seem like company endorsements. The business should determine if public SM recommendations are acceptable or encourage only letterhead recommendations when the employee leaves.

Social media opens up new potential liabilities for businesses.  To protect themselves they need to determine what is acceptable and offer simple guidelines to employees to review and understand.  This policy should be included in all updated employee manuals and reviewed annually for needed updates.

 

Dawn Boyer, Ph.D., owner of D. Boyer Consulting – provides resume writing, social media management and training, business development, and human resources consulting. Reach her at: Dawn.Boyer@DBoyerConsulting.com or http://dboyerconsulting.com.

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