Consider the following:
- If Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest in the world.
- More video content is uploaded to YouTube in a 60-day period than the three major U.S television networks created in 60 years.
- Most companies have a policy: no references. But what about “references” on LinkedIn and other sites?
Social media is not going away. If anything, it will become even more prevalent in the workplace, especially when you add smartphones to the mix. According to a recent study, 69 percent of employers do not have a social media policy. Do you? Below are a few tips to consider from Business and Legal Resources:
Have a well-written policy. A carefully drafted social media policy can be the most effective tool an employer can hope to have. Although policies can vary greatly depending on the culture and needs of the organization, there are a few essentials that all policies should include:
- Be sure to identify a specific contact person (with contact information) who will be the point person for employees’ questions about the policy and make it clear that employees are to ask before acting any time they have doubts about whether their intended action may violate the policy.
- Specifically reference other company policies, such as an anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policy, conflicts-of-interest policy, and confidentiality policy, and make it clear that they apply equally to conduct in the online world, just as they do in the real workplace.
- Require all employees to report online conduct that violates any of these policies as soon as they become aware of it. Without this provision, you may find that the only people who don’t know about policy violations are those charged with its enforcement.
- When you’re writing new social media policies, be sure you can justify the policy as being related to a legitimate business interest. You need to be able to articulate what the legitimate business interest is, and it would be great if that were actually written into the policy.
Educate employees. The goal of a social media policy is not to trick employees into violating it. The objective is to prevent employees from acting in a way that hurts the organization—or themselves. With that in mind, employers are well advised to offer ongoing education to employees. Topics can include proper online etiquette and good online citizenship, as well as more hands-on subjects, such as how to adjust the privacy settings in a social networking profile.
Don’t take it personally. When an employee makes negative comments about his or her job, employer or supervisor, employers often overreact. They tend to take the comments personally and respond with emotion instead of logic. If you discover an online post about your organization written by an employee, it is best to take a step back before you respond. Ask yourself whether the post really impacts the organization in a negative way, or whether it’s more akin to traditional water cooler gossip. Unless you can identify some kind of actual harm to the organization, you may want to consider whether disciplinary action is appropriate at all.
Don’t be sneaky. Sneaky conduct frequently gets employers into trouble. Do not, for example, ever ask (or require) an employee or applicant to give you his or her password to an online account or profile. Similarly, do not have another employee give you access to an account so you can surreptitiously snoop on a co-worker. Do not have someone send a friend request so you can gain access to an employee or applicant’s profile without disclosing the real reason for the request. The bottom line here is, if it sounds sneaky, looks sneaky or smells sneaky, then a jury will hold you accountable for such unpalatable behavior.
Every company will address these issues differently. You need to think through what the risks are and what you are trying to achieve by your employees’ use (or prohibited use) of social media. When you are thinking of social media policies, you must remember that the regulation of employee behavior should be related to a legitimate business interest of the company. This will make it clear why the policy is in place. iBi