As more and more companies use social media in their branding strategies, it has become increasingly important for every business to have a social media policy in place. Social media policies and procedures give employees important information about what they can and cannot post on platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, and help your company manage risk.
The laws around social media policies are constantly evolving; Policies must balance protection of sensitive company information with employee rights. For example, the National Labor Relations Board has ruled that employees cannot be fired or disciplined for posting complaints about working conditions on social media. In general, a company’s social media policy cannot infringe upon employees’ First Amendment rights.
What Should Your Social Media Policy Contain?
To avoid employee free-speech issues, craft your social media policy as a guideline for employees rather than set-in-stone rules, the Small Business Administration warns. Some areas to touch upon include:
Intellectual Property Rights
Clearly tell employees that they cannot post content or images on the company website that belong to another person, company, website or blog. All content that comes from another source should be viewed as subject to intellectual property laws. That is, it cannot be used without the owner’s written consent.
(Note: “Social sharing” buttons on a firm’s website that ask visitors to share content constitute consent.)
In general, employees who post anything about your company on social media must disclose their affiliation with you. For instance, if you ask your employees to mention your company on their Facebook page or Twitter feed, they should state that they work for the company and in what capacity in the post or tweet.
Similarly, any financial incentives or promotional considerations you offer employees for mentioning your company on a social media channel must be “clearly and conspicuously” disclosed, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s Endorsement Guides. Prominently disclose affiliate relationships, wherein you promote another firm’s products on your website and are paid a commission for sales, as well.
Spell out the types of company information that employees may not share. This typically includes:
- Proprietary data, such as information about operations, promotions, advertising strategies and release dates
- Customer information of any kind
- Nonpublic financial information
- Legal issues
Additionally, encourage employees to avoid disclosing personal information online.
Include a statement in your social media policy that prohibits employees from using the company’s trademark or branding materials in a personal online post. Also advise them against posting photos or videos taken while they are wearing a company uniform or ID badge.
Make sure your employees know that customer service is your primary concern. Employees should never resort to rudeness, crude language or defamatory statements when engaging with customers online.
Your social media policy should also explicitly prohibit employees from making discriminatory statements online. This includes derogatory statements based on age, sex, race, color, creed, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, citizenship, disability, marital status or any other legally recognized protected class. Such statements tarnish the company’s reputation and may place you in legal jeopardy as well.
Outline the specific consequences to employees whose behavior that falls outside your social media guidelines. For example, will the employee receive a written warning for revealing sensitive company information or be summarily dismissed? Every employee needs to understand that the consequences of violating the guidelines may be severe.
Tackling the problems associated with social media and online communications is a challenge facing businesses nationwide. Finding a balance between employee’s rights and protecting your company is not an easy task. Nevertheless, the Internet is a wide open playing field where your business may be exposed to many different types of risk.
At Carmoon Group, we specialized in risk management strategies of all kinds. Whether you need help crafting a social media policy or it’s time for your annual business insurance review, give us a call any weekday between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. to speak to an agent about your needs. No time to make a call? Request a free consultation now and we’ll get back to you at a convenient time.