Is your social media policy still relevant?

by Katie Essner on October 12, 2011

By now, you know your business needs a social media policy. It should discuss the rules for employees and the company to abide by when using social media. But when was the last time you updated it? Did you know that with continually changing laws and regulations your policy might not protect your company at all?

The legal pitfalls of social media can be a nightmare for companies, so it’s important to really understand the ins and outs of social media in the workplace. Let’s take a look a look at what to keep in mind when revisiting your social media policy.

First, it’s important to familiarize yourself with regulations that may affect your social media policy. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) is enforced by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and covers proper labor practices. An employee’s rights in regards to a company’s social media policy is covered in these regulations, so take a look at it and make sure your social media policy aligns with it. Also, new FTC guidelines provide regulations for the endorsement of products on social media sites, so if your employees are involved in any product endorsement, make sure your social media rules follow these guidelines.

Next, bosses or managers need to understand they should not request a social media connection with employees so employees do not feel pressured to accept. The legal liabilities and consequences of these online relationships far outweigh the positives. To give an example, if an employee mentions on Facebook that they are sick and happen to be let go from their company the next day, regardless of whether the two incidents are related, if a manager is friends with this person and can see this post, the employee can make a case against the company saying they were let go based on this information. In order to prevent any potential lawsuits, it’s best to completely avoid these online connections at all.

Finally, be aware that you may need to incorporate new elements into your social media policy. A technology usage policy should cover rules for all technological devices your company provides (cell phones, company email, etc.). In addition, encourage employees to use privacy settings, have separate professional and personal accounts, and prohibit posts that are discriminatory, harassing, leak confidential information or harm the reputation of the company.

Once you’ve updated your policy, review it with your attorney to make sure you’ve covered all your bases. Make sure you’re company is protected and that your employees are knowledgeable and informed. Being prepared is the best way to avoid the legal battles of social media.

Blog inspired by the presentation “Planning for the Pitfalls of Social Media in the Workplace” presented by Trevor M. Torcello, Esq. for the Public Relations Society of America.


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