Even though your company might not have any social media presence, many of your employees may be regular visitors to social networking websites. Thus it becomes very important to have a social media policy in place.

In recent times it has become increasingly clear to employers that the inappropriate use of social media can cause significant damage to a company’s reputation and to business relationships.

The aspects to be covered in this article include the benefits of having a social media policy, the risks of not having such policy, the contents of such a policy and how to get one.

Social Media Policy

Social media can have positive impacts on your company, especially when it comes to marketing and branding. However, not having an effective and well planned social media policy can result in negative consequences. Even a minor mistake or inappropriate post through social media can quickly spread and tarnish the image of your company.

An appropriate and effective social media policy can provide both the employer and the employee with certainty about the nature and scope of their rights and obligations and can specify the consequences of a breach of the policy, which may lead to disciplinary action including even termination of employment.

All employers should have a social media policy that educates employees on how social media can work, including setting clear boundaries about its use connected with work.

The policy should provide guidance as to what is appropriate and what is not. If there had been an existing policy providing guidance to employees about inappropriate conduct in social media, it should be periodically reviewed and updated.

Risks Of Not Having A Policy

The risks associated with a poorly managed policy or not having a policy in place at all, are numerous.

Not only can social media use affect productivity, but when used inappropriately, it can have a negative impact on a company. This can include issues around branding, bullying and harassment, disclosure of confidential information and defamation.

Following are some of the legal and commercial risks to employers who choose to ignore the dynamic impact that social media is having on the workplace:

disruptive and costly conflicts with employees which could lead to termination and unfair dismissal claims;
defamation claims;
breach of confidentiality claims;
breach of privacy claims;
discrimination claims made by employees who are harassed by other employees or management; and
loss of loyal customers and potential new customers who view videos or comments made by employees which are critical of the employer.

Therefore, it is vital that employers take a pro-active approach and make employees aware of the consequences of their social media usage through implementing an effective social media policy and then properly training the employees so that they are familiar with the same.

Benefits Of Having A Policy

Following are the benefits enjoyed by companies who are already have a social media policy in place:

Risk management

Social media policy is designed to protect employers from a number of risks.

There have been countless stories in the media about employees losing their jobs because they have posted inappropriate content on Facebook or any other social networking websites.

In most of the cases, the employees have no idea that the content they are posting would be deemed inappropriate by their employer, because the guidelines were not clearly stated in the policy. Having a proper social media policy in place will streamline the process.

The impact on productivity

It is essential that social media usage in the work environment is closely monitored, so that personal and non-approved usage is able to be managed by the employer.

A social media policy should clearly state what social networking websites are accessible and when it is acceptable.

Employees want social media

Businesses can leverage social media by using it to attract, retain and motivate their employees. In some cases, the cost involved in doing so can even be comparatively less than providing a pay increase to employees.

A social media policy gives employers the flexibility to use it as part of the recruitment process and performance review process.

Social media encourages collaboration, creativity & communication

Social networking websites can foster and facilitate collaboration, creativity and communication within a business.

Reputation management

A social media policy may outline how your business deals with customer feedback (positive and negative) on social media.

The policy may also put in place processes that direct customer service employees on how to deal with these situations.

The Conditions Of A Social Media Policy & How To Get One

The key to a strong social media policy is its conditions.

A social media policy governs employees’ use of social media and sets out the ground rules, such as:

the ownership of a social media account on which the employee interacts with clients;
when an employee can use social media during work time; and
the consequences for breaching the policy.

It should also include specific obligations not to use social media:

to damage the business’ reputation and interests. For example, disparaging the business, products/services or clients;
to disclose the business’ confidential information; or
to harass or bully other colleagues.

Since every company is different, every social media policy will be different as well. However, here are some basic steps to follow when deciding the right social media policy for your company:

know your goals;
weigh out your options;
find the balance; and
set the guidelines.

Many companies do not establish policies to govern social media usage, or can find their policy difficult to enforce due to lack of employee engagement and training on the topic. However, the development of a strong social media policy is essential, particularly when one considers workforce risk for avoidance of loss of employee goodwill, information breaches and reputational damage.

Owen Hodge Lawyers can assist employers with the drafting and implementation of appropriate policies regarding employees’ use of social networking websites.

Contact Owen Hodge Lawyers on 1800 770 780 to provide you with assistance on this matter.

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