Should my company have a social media policy?

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Any business that has employees who use email or the Internet to communicate or have access to social media including blogs will need to have an online privacy policy, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The social media policy — also called an Internet posting policy, blogging policy or code of online participation — is necessary, especially in cases where an employee might be posting on behalf of the business because of the risk associated with it. A policy can ensure the employee follows the rules for dealing with confidential company information, handling the competition and obeying copyright laws.

It can be hard to control employees’ use of social media with their access to it through smart phones or tablets, and business owners are restricted by law on what they can prohibit employees from commenting about or posting outside of work hours.

The Small Business Administration recommends business owners first contact an attorney to ensure they comply with all laws that pertain to employment and social media. The policy should be clear about when employees can have access to social media during work hours and for work purposes, and if the business will discipline an employee if he or she abuses the code of conduct. The policy can be a simple outline but should include:

• Expectations for sharing confidential or proprietary information that might include photos, videos or documents.

• Responsibilities for posting on behalf of the company through blogs, social networking sites or image sharing sites. The policy needs to make sure it details what can and cannot be shared on behalf of the company to ensure all copyright laws are being followed and that permission is granted for use of intellectual property if needed.

• How to be courteous and respectfully engage in social media, as well as how and when to take defensive measures should posts ever need to be removed from business accounts, and what steps to take to protect the company’s reputation.

• Ways to prevent disgruntled employees or former employees from venting their complaints via social media.

• Examples of situations in which an employee would be allowed to post information about his or her employer.

• Advice for employees to not post anything on their personal page they wouldn’t want advertised on the front page of a newspaper.

• Responses to provide to a journalist if the employee should be contacted through his or her personal network.

• Specific examples of what would consist of “inappropriate” remarks, so employees know what is acceptable and not to post.

The guidelines should be given to all employees and in the employee handbook, and then employees should receive social media training as part of the onboarding and continuing education process. ♦

 

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