What should your social media policy include? How do you even know where to begin when there are so many different facets to this complex issue? You may know that you need to have a social media policy in your employee handbook, but how do you ensure it is aligned with company goals?
In a recent BLR webinar, Jeffrey Schultz and John Vering outlined some guidance for employers to get started on drafting their social media policies.
Companies Need Social Media Policies, But Where Do You Begin?
"The first question that I think should be asked is who the policy going to cover? Who does it apply to? Is it going to be all employees and executives? I think it should be. I think it should be everybody in the organization from the CEO to the janitor should be covered by the policy. Now, that doesn’t mean that it has to be the same policy for all levels within the organization." Schultz explained. Consider different categories of employees and how they are/will be using social media as it relates to work.
Social media policies may differ for different employees within the organization, and likewise, companies are also unique in their policy needs. "It’s not a one-size-fits-all thing because every organization has different needs. Every organization has different uses for social media, and they all have different risks that they’re trying to manage." As such, when drafting a social media policy, a company should ask three broad questions, each of which has many sub-questions to get to the root of the issue:
- What do you want to accomplish through the use of social media? What are your business goals and marketing objectives and how do they translate to social media? This is going to determine your strategy and what social media platforms are going to be used. Are you targeting certain audiences? Creating brand awareness? Are you creating campaigns or developing a message? Developing leads or prospects? What channels and tools are you using besides social media? How are you distributing content? How are you monitoring and engaging with customers?
- What do you hope to accomplish with your social media policy? For example, are you trying to educate the members of the organization on how to use social media? Do you hope to limit company liability for employee actions (i.e. manage risk)? Do you need to control the message that reaches the public and/or address reputational concerns? Are you trying to comply with regulations? Is there a brand-awareness campaign? Are you trying to protect competitively sensitive or confidential information from being publicly released?
- Will your social media policy be consistent with other corporate policies, guidelines, and your overall culture? "This is one of those tensions companies face when they’re trying to determine how restrictive to be in their policy," Schultz noted. Consider other policies that govern employee behavior; social media policies must be consistent with: employee handbooks or policy and procedure manuals, employment agreements, applicable government or industry regulations, and your corporate culture.
When you can answer the three broad questions (with the help of the sub-questions) the details of your social media policy needs will be much clearer and you will be well on your way.
Tip for employers: Before you incorporate your social media policy in your employee handbook, you should ensure it is not going to violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). In a related article, Schultz and Vering outlined what the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has to say on the matter.
For more information on social media policy recommendations, order the webinar recording. To register for a future webinar, visit http://catalog.blr.com/audio.
Attorney Jeff Schultz is a business and commercial litigator with Armstrong Teasdale and is co-chair of the Social Media Practice Group. Much of his practice focuses on counseling individuals and organizations through complex disputes involving the misappropriation of trade secrets, computer tampering, non-disclosure agreements, non-compete agreements, commercial contracts, and social networking law.
Attorney John Vering leads the Employment and Labor Law practice group of Armstrong Teasdale. A strong litigator, he works with both local and national organizations in a wide array of industries on a wide variety of employment lawsuits and business disputes.