Avoiding Social Media Nightmares

Reprinted with permission from Clear Point Consultants Inc.

The 60 Second Solution: Five Tips for Creating a Sustainable Social Networking Policy

Has anyone in your company ever done any of the following?

  • Leaked confidential information through a social networking site?
  • Used social media to conduct a background check on a job candidate?
  • Posted anything defamatory about your company or a competitor?

Social media has become the most pervasive technology on the Internet. More than 300 million people are on Facebook. And 100 million have profiles on LinkedIn. In fact, just last month Facebook topped Google for total traffic.

Social media offers some amazing benefits in helping to build company brands, engage customers, provide service, and assist recruiting. Yet, the potential liabilities are just as amazing with the opportunity for defamation, discrimination, disclosure of trade secrets, and even illegal activity.

Yet despite the risks, less than half of employers have written a specific policy for their workers’ online social networking activities. So where should you draw the line?

Here are five quick ideas for creating an effective social media policy:

  1. Put it in writing. Employers have every right to create and enforce policies which protect their reputation, employees and property. Be clear about acceptable and unacceptable behavior in a written social media/networking policy. Include detailed information regarding reasonable and responsible use of social media.
  2. Set clear boundaries. Provide employees with easy to follow guidelines. Outline your expectations and try to foresee possible issues. How?
    • Provide examples of acceptable use and encourage that type of behavior.
    • Give concrete examples of acceptable social networking practices.
    • Require employees to meet your standards.
  3. Include these five points. According to Workforce Management, while social networking, employees must avoid:
    • Illegal activity.
    • Disclosing trade secrets or other confidential or sensitive information.
    • “Watering down” patented or copyright-protected information.
    • Harassing or otherwise being mean-spirited by spreading gossip–or even the truth–about others.
    • Wasting our work time or that of others.
  4. Obey applicable laws. The following laws apply specifically to social media: The Federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act, The National Labor Relations Act, State statues and other court-created privacy and personal rights. Keep abreast of the laws and changes.
  5. Post the policy for all to see. Keep your policy short and to the point. Nobody wants to (or will) read a three page booklet. Post the policy for easy reference where employees will find it easily.

To read more about this topic—

10 Must Haves for Your Social Media Policy
Plus a Real Example of One Company’s Social Media Policy
http://mashable.com/2009/06/02/social-media-policy-musts/

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