Employer Beware: Develop a Social Media Policy Before It’s Too Late

By Latrice Nicole Lee

There are approximately 1.44 billion active monthly Facebook users and 316 million active monthly Twitter users, in addition to millions who blog or use Instagram and Snapchat. More likely than not, your employees, customers, and clients are social media users. The rise of smartphones has made social networking a swipe or finger tap away; however, companies may find themselves in hot water if an employee “posts” or “tweets” inappropriate material about co-workers, the company, or clients.

While it is impossible for a company to monitor every single post or tweet made by employees, a company may and should create social media policies outlining the “dos and don’ts” of posting or tweeting. Developing a social media policy is a great opportunity to create a cohesive brand and culture online, and it may be a company’s first line of defense for mitigating social media risk.

The needs of every company are different; nevertheless asocial media policy can address several fundamental topics such as:

  • The usage that is permitted on work computer systems, e-mail, and internet during working hours;

  • Disclosure of confidential or propriety information related to the company or clients;

  • The use of company logos or trademarks;

  • Discriminatory statements and harassment;

  • Whether social media accounts will be monitored; and

  • Actions that may be subject to discipline.

Companies also need to consider whether employees should be required to create separate private and professional social media accounts if the employee posts or tweets on behalf of the company. If a company allows an employee to post or tweet on its behalf, the social media policy should clearly define who owns the account—the company or the employee.

When creating a social media policy, employers must also remember that under the National Labor Relations Act, social media policies cannot prohibit discussions regarding the terms and conditions of employment. While social media policies seek to prevent chaos, companies should remember that positive employee use of social media is a powerful tool that employers may harness to increase business and brand loyalty.

The use of social media by individuals and companies is changing rapidly.  Likewise, the law on social media is rapidly evolving.  Therefore, it is necessary to not only create, but also regularly review social media policies.