Social media has and continues to change the way we connect and communicate with friends and family. In addition, social media has an effect on how we conduct business. There have been many instances of potential employees not being hired and current employees being fired due to content on their personal social media accounts.
A good social media policy will address the expected conduct of employees on their personal social media accounts. It will discuss how comments made on a personal account may affect public opinion regarding their employer. With a good policy in place, you can discipline employees, including possible termination, for inappropriate social media content even if done on the employee’s personal account on personal time. Without a policy in place, taking disciplinary action becomes much more difficult.
A good social media policy must also address an employee’s use of the organization’s official social media outlets. The policy should state who is authorized to create and use official social media accounts and who has the authority to delegate those duties.
The use of some social media may create a limited public forum. Sites like Facebook that allow public comments do just that. As a public entity, it is important to recognize that censoring such comments may be a violation of the user’s First Amendment freedom of speech rights. This must be taken into account by the public entity when deciding whether or not to use such social media outlets.
Each individual policy will look different and house different requirements. However, there are many components to a social media policy that run across most organizations. Here are some specific things to consider including in a good social media policy:
- Remind employees to become familiar with the employee handbook or code of conduct
- State that the social media policy applies to multi-media, social networking websites, blogs, and wikis for both professional and personal use
- State that Internet postings should not disclose any information that is confidential to your organization
- State that when employees comment on anything relating to their employment a disclaimer should be made; such a disclaimer might say “the views expressed are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of (organization name here)
- Employees should neither claim nor imply that they are speaking on the organization’s behalf unless expressly authorized to do so.”
When used effectively, social media can enhance communication and an organization’s public image. But it can also cause serious problems if employees are allowed to use it without restriction. Remember that any time an employee speaks out, regardless of intent, they may be viewed as a representative of the organization.
We strongly encourage all members to write and enact a social media policy. As always, it is recommended that the policy be reviewed by an attorney to ensure that it is completely legal.