Best Practices for Employers Steering Through the Social Media Landscape
By John Kraft Senior Associate Attorney, Fuksa Khorsid, LLC | June 19, 2016
A 2012 survey by SilkRoad Technology revealed that some 75 percent of employees use social media on the job, and that 60 percent do so multiple times a day. Of those surveyed, 49 percent said they use social media to connect with coworkers and 44 percent said they use social media to connect with customers. Yet, only 23 percent of employees had received a social media policy from their employers, and only 7 percent had received social media training. Clearly, employers are not communicating with their employees their preferences about using social media. But not addressing social media issues can be as bad as encouraging them.
Like it or not, social media is here to stay. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Yelp, and many others have changed the way we do business. Used properly, social media can help build and improve your company's image. Used poorly, social media can destroy goodwill, and in the worst of circumstances, land you in court. It is more critical than ever to create and implement a sound social media policy for your employees.
A sound social media policy will address at least three important issues. First, your social media policy should address how you handle company social media accounts. Second, your social media policy should address how you, as an employer, handle what employees say on personal accounts about you or their jobs. Third, your social media policy should address how social media is handled in the hiring process.
Social Media on the Job
As an employer, you are liable for your employees' actions within the scope of their employment. It may seem obvious, but controlling the use of company social media accounts is a critical part of any social media policy. When you allow employees to use company social media accounts, it is up to you to make sure that they do so responsibly. Your social media policy should clarify what is acceptable to post and what is not. Give direction by encouraging positive messages that paint your company in a favorable light. Discourage objectionable content or questionable humor, but do by explaining how it will harm the company.
Under no circumstances should company social media accounts be used to diminish or demean competitors, lest they open the company up to potential defamation claims. And when you hire consultants or outside PR firms to handle social media, make sure you communicate your requirements with them as well. You don't want to end up like Entenmanns, who in 2011, tweeted "Who's #notguilty about eating all the tasty treats they want?!" The problem was that the tweet, believed to be authored by an outside PR firm, came out on the same day as the Casey Anthony not guilty verdict, and the hashtag, #notguilty, was already trending in connection with that event. The tweet was a PR disaster.
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