Nowadays, social media has become one of the primary ways people get news, share their thoughts and connect with people around the world. And according to Pew Research Center, 72% of the American public uses some sort of social media platform.
In some ways, the rise of social media can be both a blessing and a curse for employers. It allows businesses to connect directly with their consumer base. However, how employees use social media also places employers at a great risk that they must prepare for proactively.
Is it necessary to create a social media policy?
The risk that social media poses to businesses leads many employers to question if they need a social media policy for their employees to address these issues. In this day and age, the answer to that question is certainly yes.
Even posts on an employee’s personal account could put a business’s reputation, brand and security at risk, such as:
- Harassing or discriminatory posts creating a hostile work environment
- Posts violating a confidentiality agreement or other terms of their contract
- Posts where employees act as an improper spokesperson for the company
Employers could also be held liable for offensive posts if they were aware of them through social media or other employees’ reports.
Therefore, a social media policy is essential to protect the business and prevent potential legal issues from developing.
What should employers consider in such a policy?
As an employer, you must strike a careful balance when creating a social media policy. So, here are a few critical things to consider:
- Be direct: Make it clear to your employees what kind of posts or social media activity you will not tolerate, such as harassing language or discussing business operations online. Emphasize the business’s values when addressing the expectations of employees’ online behavior.
- Create other avenues: In the language of the policy, you should remind and encourage employees to bring their concerns or complaints to you. This helps to prevent employees from airing their grievances on social media.
- Know the law: The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and California law allow employees to communicate about their employment – including in social media posts. You should take time to understand what kind of posts the law allows, as well as the ones for which you could be liable.
- Consult an attorney: It is beneficial to have an experienced business attorney review your social media policy to make sure it is effective, complies with all the relevant laws and does not violate an employee’s rights.
As social media changes the world, you must constantly review and revise your policy to make sure it successfully protects the business in the digital age.