How to craft an effective social media policy

How to craft an effective social media policy

Social media, HR and legal experts share their advice regarding the use of social media networks while at the office or using company computers and devices. Also, a look at some of the legal issues surrounding the use of social media at work.

“The best social media policies are direct and specific, and communicate clearly to employees what they should and shouldn't do,” says Jenn Deering Davis, cofounder and editor in chief, Union Metrics, a provider of social media analytics and answers. “Make sure your guidelines are both easy to understand and to follow.”

5. Don't be draconian. “Social media is a big part of many people's lives, and they want to use it at and for work,” says Deering Davis. “So make room for social media in your organization, and find ways to let it work for you. Instead of discouraging social media use,” or banning it outright, “encourage responsible, appropriate use.”

The legal side of using social media at and for work

Josh Druckerman, an associate attorney at White Harris, a management-side employment law firm, discusses some of the legal issues surrounding the use of social media at work or by employees.

The company owns its social media accounts, not the employees. “If your company makes use of social media for promotion, such as through a company Twitter account, blog, LinkedIn or Facebook page, your policy should make it very clear that the company owns all [of its] social media accounts, as well as all of the associated followers, ‘likes,’ ‘friends’ or other online connections associated with those accounts.

“Your company should also require that all passwords, access codes and administrator credentials for company social media pages be provided to, stored by and made accessible to the company at all times, and that the company must be kept apprised of any changes to passwords, administrators or unauthorized accesses.”

Employees have the right to communicate with other employees, and talk about the company, on social media. “The National Labor Relations Board has been mounting a crusade against employer social media policies that ‘chill’ employee speech regarding terms and conditions of employment. As a result, employers should make sure their social media policies do not prohibit employees from discussing their benefits, wages, pay practices or working conditions with other employees.

“For example, policies that ban posting negative information about the company and policies preventing employees from ‘friending’ each other on Facebook have been struck down by the NLRB for violating employee rights to organize under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act.”

Employees must disclose when they are posting on behalf of the company. “Employees who post about, promote or review their company's products or services are required by FTC regulations to include a disclaimer that states that they are an employee of the company. Similarly, if a company hires or compensates spokespersons to promote the company on social media, compensates a blogger for a review or engages an endorser to tweet about an offering, those marketing statements must include a disclaimer that the individual is affiliated with the company.”

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