Social media has been an absolute game changer for our society. Individuals and businesses can now stay connected and instantaneously engage with people around the world in previously unimaginable ways. Whether it’s Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, or TikTok, most individuals and organizations are on some form of social media. Additionally, many people also blog and share thoughts and opinions on platforms such as podcasts, videos, and message boards.

Social media can be used to form close relationships, drive collaboration, discover important information, and much more. But the downsides of social media, usually stemming from careless impulsivity, can have devastating repercussions, including lawsuits, leaks, reputational harm, and business loss. And the effects can be swift. In a matter of minutes, a post could go viral and any hope of containing the outbreak is lost.

Since your organization and nearly everyone in it uses social media, it’s important to educate and inform people about how social media should and should not be used, along with the repercussions for stepping out of line.

What happens if an employee posts something troubling on social media? Do you have an updated social media policy in place?

Before you’re left scrambling by some social-media scandal, HR departments should collaborate with management to outline a clearly understood social media policy. And if you already have one, it probably needs to be updated. Even if a company doesn’t have its own social media accounts, since employees’ actions on social media might cause harm to their employer, a company still needs an effective social media policy in place.

Don’t wait any longer! Contact Resourcing Edge today to develop or update your social media policy and learn why it’s so important to your company’s brand, reputation, and risk management.

What Is a Social Media Policy?

A social media policy is a corporate code of conduct that outlines what is considered acceptable conduct on social media and which behavior will not be tolerated. The consequences for violating the policy should be effectively enforced, consistently applied, and properly documented. This encourages compliance, justifies disciplinary action, and protects you in the event of a discrimination lawsuit.

The main thing a social media policy does is set consistent and company-wide rules that articulate a clear plan of action rather than having the decision be made on an individual basis.

Employee Privacy Rights

If an employee makes an offensive post, people may see it and want to take action against the employer, especially where allegations of discrimination arise. To be safe, employers should have a comprehensive and consistent policy in place to ensure that employees are know the social media rules and workplace obligations.

But the line between one’s personal and professional life are increasingly blurred. HR departments need to be careful about breeching employee privacy rights. Employee privacy laws vary significantly by region and industry, so it’s important to speak with an employment law attorney to avoid potential legal issues.

For instance, if an employer wanted to fire an employee over a negative social media post about the company, they may run into an unfair practice complaint that claims the firing violated the National Labor Relations Act that allows employees the right to discuss working conditions with co-workers.

Speak with a lawyer before finalizing any social media policy, but generally, discriminatory remarks, harassments, threats, and disclosure of sensitive business information can be grounds for termination.

The fact is that social media is part of your overall communications strategy. One social media post can do irreparable damage to the business and may even bring clients and customers into the mix. While social media is different from other communication methods, its regulation involves many of the same issues that HR has always dealt with.

But as always, there needs to be a careful balance between employee rights and company business interests. We highly recommend annual social media policy reviews to ensure your policy reflects the current legal standards.

What to Include in a Social Media Policy

A social media policy should include details about:

  • What is considered libelous in terms of the company and the consequences for such statements.
  • Sharing proprietary or confidential business information.
  • Personal use of social media during business hours.
  • Prohibited online conduct, such as defamatory, derogatory, or inflammatory content.
  • Using work email for online signups.
  • Who can speak for the company on social media.
  • Brand guidelines for how to talk about the company.
  • What will happen if any part of the social media policy is violated.

The boundaries of online conduct should be known, understood, and acknowledged by every employee.

Conclusion

Your social media policy should be just as thorough as other company policies, such as the sexual harassment policy. You need to say more than just “don’t say anything on social media that could be detrimental to the company.”

Unfortunately, many company social media policies are so broad as to be unenforceable, and may run afoul of employee privacy rights. Work with trained HR professionals and employment law attorneys to handle sensitive areas and remain compliant.

A well-crafted social media policy will go a long way in protecting your company from security risks, legal issues, and damaged reputations.

Social media doesn’t have to be scary. But it should be handled with care. Contact Resourcing Edge to implement a smart social media policy for your business.

Shelby Kier
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