In today’s age of social media, it is naïve of business professionals to think that their employees or contractors will refrain from posting on their personal pages information about their employers or complaints about their jobs. The question is, when does an employee go too far in not only prejudicing the employer from, say, being able to attract good candidates for employment, but also divulging sensitive information about the company, or even a customer? How does the company manage these postings without interfering with the employees’ right to freely post whatever they choose on their social networks?
Many companies have come up with social media guidelines, which provide practical advice and help on how and what to post on social media; in other words, how to behave on social media. These guidelines should be clear and concise so as to provide an employee guidance with what he or she should or should not post. Depending on the nature of the business, it may be a good idea to encourage employees to participate in social media to further enhance company brand.
Other companies have come up with social media policies. However, such policies must be managed appropriately in order to preserve the employees’ rights and save the companies from unfair labor charges. There are many ways to write a proactive, positive social media policy. Some companies choose to focus on the use of work computers, emphasizing productivity and the time spent surfing the net on social media sites, while other companies emphasize the potential harm that may arise if posting on such sites from the workplace, such as phishing and malware. If your company lists that certain types of language should not be used, such as abusive language, then it is good idea to set out examples of these kinds of statements. The company may state in their policy that inappropriate racial slurs, slurs about religion or slurs about physical disability are not tolerated. The company could also make it clear that if a customer posts negative comments, it is not within the employee’s authority to reply to those posts; in fact, the employee should not reply to those posts at all unless it is clearly made known that such a reply is a personal statement.
One way to manage the company media policy so as not to interfere with an employee’s right to post is to require a “disclaimer” from the employee for any posting or statement on social media blogs. The company may require that any statement be identified as the employee’s own opinion, and is not related to the company’s views. Moreover, it is always a good idea to put in place a policy which prohibits the company’s sensitive information from being divulged. This is no different than what employers have always required, even in the days before social media, and is a reasonable request.
Protection of a company’s intellectual property from being circulated outside the company is of prime importance in the competitive marketplace. Also, it is a good idea to require employees to observe copyright laws when posting on social media, and to require employees to refrain from disclosing confidential information such as customer, financial or operational information.
Social media guidelines or a social media policy may be good ideas, but either or both should be clear and concise, and mindful of the pros and cons to both the company and the employees.