Social Media—The bane of management or the next best marketing tool? Should you control it or encourage it? Of course, the answers depend on your business and your culture, but here’s a sample policy to get you going.

Social Networking Policy

The company encourages employees to share information with co-workers and with those outside the company for the purpose of gathering information, generating new ideas, and learning from the work of others.

Social media provide inexpensive, informal, and timely ways to participate in an exchange of ideas and information. However, information posted on a website is available to the public, and therefore, the company has established the following guidelines for employee participation in social media.

Note: As used in this policy, “social media” includes, but is not limited to, blogs, forums, and social networking sites, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and MySpace.

Off-duty use of social media. Employees may maintain personal websites or blogs on their own time using their own facilities. Employees must ensure that social media activity does not interfere with their work. In general, the company considers social media activities to be personal
endeavors, and employees may use them to express their thoughts or promote their ideas as long as they do not conflict with company policies or business.
On-duty use of social media. Employees may engage in social media activity during work time, provided it is directly related to their work, approved by their manager, and does not identify or reference company clients, customers, or vendors without express permission.

Monitoring. The company monitors employee use of company computers and the Internet, including employee blogging and social networking activity.

Respect. Demonstrate respect for the dignity of the company, its owners, its customers, its vendors, and its employees. A social media site is a public place, and employees should avoid embarrassing readers, company employees, customers, vendors, or owners. Do not use ethnic
slurs, personal insults, or obscenity, or use language that may be considered inflammatory. Even if a message is posted anonymously, it may be possible to trace it back to the sender.

Post disclaimers. If an employee identifies himself or herself as a company employee or discusses matters related to the company on a social media site, the site must include a disclaimer on the front page stating that it does not express the views of the company and that the employee is expressing only his or her personal views.

For example: “The views expressed on this website/web log are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.”

Place the disclaimer in a prominent position and repeat it for each posting expressing an opinion related to the company or the company’s business. Employees must keep in mind that if they post information on a social media site that is in violation of company policy and/or federal, state, or local law, the disclaimer will not shield them from disciplinary action.

Competition. Employees should not use a social media channel to criticize the company’s competition and should not use it to compete with the company.

Confidentiality. Do not identify or reference company clients, customers, or vendors without express permission. Do not post pictures of company property or co-workers on the Internet without express permission.

Employees may write about their jobs in general but may not disclose any confidential or proprietary information. For examples of confidential information, please refer to the confidentiality policy. When in doubt, ask before publishing.

Reprinted with permission from HR Daily Advisor. Copyright 2009 Business and Legal Reports.

P•A•S Associates has expertise in human resources and other areas involving employment issues. P•A•S Associates, in providing this tip, does not represent that it is acting as an attorney or that it is giving any form of legal advice or legal opinion. P•A•S Associates recommends that before making any decision pertaining to human resource issues or employment issues, including the utilization of information contained on this website, the advice of legal counsel to determine the legal ramifications of the use of any such information be obtained.
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