As we lawyers like to say: You’re better safe than sorry. For many of us, social media has become part of the fabric of our lives – we use it to communicate with friends and family, we use it to gather information important to our personal and business lives and we use it to promote and market our ideas, our businesses and our organizations’ missions. Social media offers so many new, smart, cool, fun opportunities to communicate – and with the smart and cool comes the not-so-smart, the dangerous and the ugly – including: defamation, disclosure of confidential or proprietary information, securities law violations, harassment and other forms of employment discrimination.
From time to time on this blog, we will explore the opportunities and the pitfalls relating to the use of social media in the workplace and offer some tools to capitalize on the good and minimize the bad and the ugly.
The first tool to avoid the risks associated with the use of social media is a thoughtful and well crafted social media policy. We recommend that most employers consider adopting a social media policy to help guide the use of social media in the workplace.
A good social media policy has the following characteristics:
- Practical. A good policy should be in line with your organization’s culture.
- Based on trust. Your organization’s social media policy should start with the assumption that your employees want to the right thing. The policy should be a tool to guide them toward that end.
- With few absolutes. Absolutes can be difficult to enforce. As an employer, you will need some discretion in addressing situations that you can not anticipate. Try to frame your policy with more Do’s than Don’t’s.
- Clear and concise. A policy that is easily understood is more likely to be followed and is easier to enforce. Social media policies should be general enough to encompass new technologies and media, yet specific enough to cover all areas of concern.
- Consistent. One set of rules should apply equally to everyone in your organization.
- Legal. Be sure to avoid prohibiting legal conduct or encouraging illegal conduct.
In terms of content, a good social media policy should include the following:
- Request that employees always use good judgment
- Clear statement that violation of policy is grounds for discipline
- Clear statement on whether employees are allowed to Facebook, Tweet or blog during business hours and if so, to what extent
- Prohibition on posting of confidential or other proprietary information unless for allowable uses and on posting false or misleading information about the organization or its employees, customers or affiliates
- Requirement that any employees that blog about work include disclaimer.