Social Media Policy – Why it’s essential your organisation has one

Social Media Policy – Why it’s essential your organisation has one.

Most organisations will have internet and email use either written into employee contracts or separate policies and may also block social media applications such as facebook, youtube and twitter from work computers, however this is not enough. You cannot take away the freedom of your employees to engage in social media networking sites out of hours or on personal computers/ devices.

The only way to prevent a social media issue is to provide a social media policy and training to employees to ensure they follow your  guidelines and understand your reasoning behind them. It is important that your employees do not just see “another policy” in front of them. You must educate them so that they understand the impact they may have on your brand and that in essence as employees they are your brand ambassadors 24/7, not just when they are on the clock.

Even if your firm is not using social media, you still need a policy because your staff are using it in their private lives and they need guidelines to protect your interests and your firms’ reputation.

The main objective with a social media policy is to establish guidelines for an employees participation in social media and make them think about the consequences of any posts they make on blogs, personal websites or social media sites in relation to any effect they may have on the company.

A basic social media policy should include the following guidelines:

Provide that an employee should state that views expressed on blogs, websites or other forums are their own and do not represent the views of the company, that they are not authorised to speak on behalf of the company  nor represent it

- Employees need to be informed as to whether they need approval before posting information and identify whom they should get approval from.

- State that employees may not share information that is non public or confidential to the company or indeed which breaches any of the firms other policies on any public site

- Provide for disciplinary proceedings for commentary or content that is damaging to the company or which is  defamatory, harassing or otherwise unsavoury

- Prohibit harassment & discrimination

- State that they cannot use the company logo or trademark

- Policy on ‘friending’ co-workers on external social media sites.

- Guidelines on respect for copyright and other intellectual property laws.

Some larger organisations have developed social media training programmes for associates who will officially represent the Company to set out further guidelines for employees who will be representing the company online as official spokespersons.

As social media has increased in terms of relevance in the workplace,  issues have arisen as to ownership of social media accounts between employers and employees. Undoubtedly this will become more common. Ownership should be clearly defined in a social media policy or indeed in an employees contract. It should be clear that the account and any contributions made by the employee  are done as part of the employee’s duties and do not establish any ownership rights. Facebook “likes”, twitter followers and linked in connections are all valuable contacts to a business and a direct line of communication to these people is the entire purpose of social media.  Employers must protect themselves and their social media assets.

Should you require any further information regarding social media policies or guidelines for your company please do not hesitate to contact us at Cosgrove Gaynard Solicitors.

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