Employers, you can’t ignore social media even if you wanted to. Sticks and stones, you say, and words will never hurt you? Maybe that was true for the ancient Neanderthals, but modern humans use Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat. And posts can hurt—that’s where a social media policy comes in.
What, you don’t have one? Time to come out of the Stone Age. Here are the top five reasons to have a social media policy and one big suggestion about how to get it done.
5. The internet is forever
Facebook has more than a billion users and will keep their accounts online long after they are dead. With videos, blogs, and other posts, that’s about as close to immortality as it gets. If there’s a social media post about your company on the internet, it will never die.
4. Social media is everywhere
People used to pick up a newspaper for information. Then they got it on their television. Now it’s delivered to their phones. With one snap from a camera phone, your business could be all over social media. In other words, every employee at your company is a reporter.
3. Everybody has access to information
If Neanderthals could talk—and didn’t have fat fingers—even they would be in on the conversation. There’s only one thing scarier than a caveman (or an employee who acts like one) with a smartphone, and that’s one with a Twitter account.
2. Employees will talk about their jobs
Social media platforms collect as much information as possible about people, including work information. It drives networking, advertising, elections… Not that any foreign agents have an interest in monitoring your company, but you should care about what your own people are saying about it.
However, tread carefully if you want to take any action against an employee for posting about your company on social media. If the posts amount to a “protected activity,” you could be setting yourself up for a retaliation claim.
1. Employers could be liable for their employees’ social media
Wait, what? You didn’t know your company could be liable for an employee’s obscene, defamatory, threatening, harassing, bullying, or other wholly inappropriate social media posts? Yes, and it gets worse. They may be spilling trade secrets, or other information that we won’t mention, all over the place. Let’s just say it could get legally ugly. As you build your company’s online reputation, don’t forget the looming danger of lawsuits.
One big suggestion about getting a social media policy
Get one. A social media policy can help an employer avoid most or all of the pitfalls mentioned above. Here are a few areas you may want to cover in your policy:
- The use of personal social media accounts while on the job (e.g., is it prohibited or limited in any way?)
- The need to distinguish personal opinions from those of the company
- Protection of confidential corporate information and brand reputation
- Respect for privacy rights
- Compliance with applicable laws (e.g., copyright laws) and company standards in general
- Corporate contacts for employees who have questions about the policy
Violations of your policy should be documented and should result in discipline, up to and including termination.
“(A)n employer has the right to discipline employees for their online behavior during working hours; an employee is at work to do work, not to send Twitter updates, post on Facebook, or maintain a blog,” says Eric Kinder of Spilman Thomas and Battle PLLC. “The one caveat to this rule is that employers must be consistent in enforcing this social media policy; an employer cannot discipline employees when they make negative comments about the company, but ignore other non-work related activity while an employee is on the clock.”
If that sounds like it was written by lawyers, it’s because it was—and for a reason. Keep this in mind as you utilize all the opportunities social media offers, including the ability to promote your newest product to an eager social audience or to target your recruiting efforts to find just the right candidates.
Building your company’s social reputation starts with building a great team
When guided by a smart strategy and a sound policy, social media can be a great tool for your business, if it’s in the right hands. When it comes to recruiting talent to your organization, keeping current on the hiring market can be a challenge. Fortunately, Monster.com has tools to keep you ahead of the curve. Check out Monster Hiring Solutions for more information on hiring trends, recruitment strategies, and more.
Legal disclaimer: None of the information provided herein constitutes legal advice on behalf of Monster.