Organizations of all types and sizes are realizing the amazing reach and unbridled power of social media.
Done right, it offers an effective way to share free advice and best practices, converting prospects to customers and channeling sought-after brand evangelists. But when it goes awry, the results can be downright cringeworthy. And as more and businesses take to social media to reach their target audiences, their employees are often using the same platforms to share with the world their innermost thoughts and details about their personal relationships. Many users simply aren’t aware of the implications of posting something online, and many employers don’t understand just how far their authority over employees’ social media use extends. As the lines between the professional and the personal become increasingly blurry and workplace incidents continue to grow, it’s more critical than ever for companies to take control over their social media messaging.
What social media content can companies control?
As an employer, it’s in your best interest to stay informed about current legislation surrounding social media. Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), employees are free to discuss working conditions and their own employment related terms with those both inside and outside their organization. In these cases, an employer is not permitted to terminate the employee for engaging in the protected activity. Examples of protected content include discussions about:
- The employee’s own wages and benefits
- Complaints or criticisms about management
- Labor disputes
- Working conditions
- Safety concerns
When do employers have the right to take action?
Your staff members can’t post whatever they want to their social media accounts without consequence. If their gripes are malicious or the content is defamatory, then you may have cause to take action. Similarly, if an employee posts complaints about the customers of your establishment or posts derogatory photos of them, you may have the right to terminate them or engage in some other disciplinary action.
How can you avoid social media incidents in your workplace?
According to data from Pew Research, more than half of U.S. employers have developed some sort of policy to deal with the thorny issue of employee social media usage. But throwing some rules onto a sheet of paper and hoping they stick isn’t the best way to go about developing and implementing large-scale social media guidelines at your company. It’s worth the time and effort to establish thoughtful, clear standards within your organization for acceptable social media use. This policy should also reflect current laws and regulations, and define what disciplinary actions will result if staff members fail to meet the standards set forth. Making employees aware of this information is a proactive way to ensure that these issues don’t occur in the first place. When employees are aware of what is expected with their social media use, they’re less likely to engage in inappropriate activity. Designing employee social media guidelines that both encourage positive interaction and prevent the kind of posts that will disrupt business demands a measured approach. Here are some helpful guidelines for developing your company’s social media policy:
- Limit personal use. Personal blogging, Facebooking, and other social media activities should be kept to a minimum and should not interfere with work commitments during business hours. Employees should also avoid promoting their personal projects or causes through company media portals.
- Require clear disclaimers. Personal blogs should clearly indicate that the views expressed by the author do not necessarily represent the views of the company. This rule should also apply when a personal opinion is posted via the company’s social media channels.
- Protect your intellectual property. Employees should never post proprietary company information on social media, such as projects on which they’re working or economically valuable data. Trademarks should not be used on personal social accounts without prior consent.
- Outline prohibited behavior. Ensure that your company’s social media use is in compliance with all relevant laws, such as copyright, fair use, financial disclosures, and defamation. Your social media policy should also prohibit posts that include:
- Inappropriate jokes
- Offensive images
- Images or content that they have not received the rights to use
- Discriminatory remarks
- Content that infringes on the privacy of others
- Communicate the policy in several ways. Once your social media policy is in place, include it in the employee handbook and send reminders every now and then via email or other internal communication tools.
A good social media policy has to strike the right balance for your unique company.
That will depend largely on your industry and corporate culture. Above all, communicate your policy clearly and often, and consistently enforce its guidelines. If you have questions about the development and implementation of an effective social media policy for your organization, the HR Team is here to help. Please contact our knowledgeable professionals to learn more.
About The HR Team: Founded in 1996, The HR Team is a Maryland-based human resources outsourcing firm committed to developing strategic, customized solutions that respond to the unique needs and cultures of organizations of all types and sizes. Available as a one-source alternative to an in-house HR department or on an à la carte project basis, the company’s flexible service models address the full spectrum of HR needs that many organizations struggle to address. The HR Team helps clients achieve their highest level of success by providing value-driven human resources services that leave them time to focus on what they do best: directing business growth and profitability. Headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, the firm serves all of Maryland, Washington, DC, and Virginia. To learn more about The HR Team, call 410.381.9700 or visit https://www.thehrteam.com/.