A recent survey showed that 40% of Americans use Facebook every day. Another survey put the percentage of American Twitter users at 16%. While there is overlap between the two, if these numbers are accurate, then approximately 128 million Americans use social media every day. As a result, employers must have a social media policy. Even if your company is not using social media, you still need a policy, because as you can see, it is almost guaranteed that your employees are using it, and likely using it while at work.
If your company uses social media, then the first consideration is who will use it and for what purpose. Access to the company’s social media accounts should be limited to management personnel for various reasons, not the least of which is for purposes of ownership. (See our February 27, 2012 blog for further information on social media ownership issues).
Additionally, allow your policy to take into consideration your company’s culture as well as the nature of your industry. Involve all departments—finance, marketing, human resources, information technology—to help design and draft the policy. Review your employee handbook to make sure it is consistent with your existing policies, especially the code of conduct. In fact, you may need to amend your employee handbook to incorporate social media and its impact on the workplace.
In general, your policy should:
- Make clear that the company’s social media account is owned by the company;
- Clearly inform employees that they will be held accountable for what they post, whether in the office or at home;
- State that employees may not post anything that reveals confidential or trade secret information;
- Convey to employees that they are representatives of the company and everything they post is a reflection of the company; and
- Encourage employees to seek advanced review of posts to ensure compliance.
However, be careful not to go too far in limiting what employees can say on their personal social media accounts. For example, many companies consider wage and benefit information to be confidential, but the National Labor Relations Board has concluded that employees can in fact talk about wages as part of their right to engage in concerted activity. (See our August 20, 2012, blog for further information on the reach of the NLRB). A clear policy that strikes a reasonable balance between employee privacy and corporate responsibility should be sufficient to curb any missteps.
Finally, be sure to provide employees with training on the dos and don’ts to posting on the company social media page.