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How social media is changing what can be said, when and where

Scott Goldman | July 5, 2016
There are many benefits to having your employees active on social media. Exposure, name recognition and free publicity come to mind. But there are potholes along the way.

Employees who follow Amy's social media accounts sense that there's something wrong. They see her stress level increasing, note the workload on her desk and worry about their own future. Productivity drops. Rumors start. Bad things happen.

Both Dave and Amy have innocently been doing what millions of people do every day - they have been posting about their personal lives on their social media accounts. But what they haven't realized - and what may affect your company - is that what they write, post or repeat on social media can cause employee problems, productivity issues and even financial damage.  

It's because your company doesn't have a social media policy. In today's world you need to be aware of, or perhaps even control, what is said on your employee's Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or even Pinterest accounts. What does a solid social media policy include? At the least it should include:

  • An agreement from your employees not to post insider or revealing information about the company - and what comprises that kind of information.
  • A full set of examples or acceptable and unacceptable comments as guidelines for employees.
  • Someone within the company who serves as a monitor of these accounts. Advanced desktop tools make it easy to find and follow your own employees' accounts and to be alerted if the company name or specific keywords are used in their posts.
  • Reminders sent periodically to employees asking them to tell you what social media tools they use and their screen names so that you can follow them.  
  • A password policy that applies to internal and external logins. Make sure passwords get changed periodically and include a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols with a minimum of 10 characters.
  • A commitment to inform the security department at your company if their personal accounts are compromised (because there's information in their personal accounts that can cause harm to the company).

A few caveats to keep in mind when developing the policy:

  1. This may be difficult to enforce. You may be able to restrict access to Facebook from office computers, as an example, but apps on smartphones will easily defeat a ban like that. This policy will be as much about education, encouragement and ethics as enforcement.
  2. You can't go too far. Restricting employees' right to speech not only can run afoul of the First Amendment but may also be interpreted as interfering with a right of "concerted activities" guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Board. 
  3. A policy that is too restrictive may be a turnoff for prospective employees. If you're dealing with Millennials in particular, restricting what they can post on Facebook or tweet could be viewed as too authoritarian for them.  


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