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What you need in a Social Media Policy

Social media is spreading lightning fast around the globe as more people and businesses seek to connect online through various social media platforms. Business is increasingly recognising that social media offers more opportunities to connect to new customers and markets. Aside from gaining new clients and developing a loyal customer base, the downside of not having a clear social media policy in place is that your business risks facing legal issues and embarrassing publicity. A simple online comment or tweet can go viral in seconds!

No matter how separated an individual’s social media account may seem, it may ultimately be connected or somehow “tied in” with your business because of the extended reach of social media. Your employees should therefore understand that anything they post on social media will reflect on them and your business. A business needs to have a social media policy that is communicated to employees who understand it and their responsibilities in relation to social media interaction.

What is Social Media

Social media consists of websites and applications that allow users to create and share content and information online and to participate in social networking. The word “social” refers to interacting online with others by sharing content, ideas and information. The word “media” refers to the mechanism of communication which may include the Internet and other traditional forms of media such as television, radio, magazines and newspapers.

Sites and Apps

Social media is used to describe what we post on sites like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Snapchat, Pininterest, Google+, Reddit and others. Besides social networking sites, social media can also refer to media sharing websites including for videos and photos, online networking sites, forum and discussion groups, podcasting sites, blogging sites and online gaming platforms.

The Purpose of a Social Media Policy

Employees go onto social media for both personal and professional reasons including to take a break from their work, to connect with family and friends, online research and also to support professional networking and making new connections. The purpose of a social media policy is to provide guidance on the use of social media at work and at home to ensure that employees have guidance as to your business’s expectations as to communications online.

Risk consequences of Irresponsible use

  • releasing confidential information about the business such as the names or private information of clients without authorisation
  • derogatory, hostile or disrespectful statements
  • legal consequences of employees using sites to view or distribute illicit or offensive content
  • inappropriate online postings
  • comments on social media that bring your business into disrepute
  • abusive, defamatory or criminal offences
  • cyber bulling by employees
  • posting comments that don’t reflect the views of the business
  • vulnerability to hackers and online fraud and scams
  • potential threats like malware and vriuses

The Impact on Productivity

  • falling workplace productivity through lost time when employees are posting “selfies” or messaging friends online!

Keeping your Brand Safe

A social media policy should include your expectations for appropriate employee conduct and interaction on social media. The policy should have brand guidelines on how to communicate about the business and its products and services, including as to:

  • Brand Guidelines: protecting the brand name and reputation of your business and how best to represent the business on-line
  • Misleading and Deceptive Statements: educate your employees not to post misleading or deceptive statements
  • Confidentiality: defining what business information is confidential, sensitive, financial or proprietary information and should not be shared on social media
  • Legal Issues and Security Risks: by explaining what these are and how to protect against them including that which is derogatory, discriminatory, defamatory or inflammatory content
  • Intellectual Property: postings must respect intellectual property laws and not include any logos, trademarks or copyright material unless authorisation is granted

Every business should have a social media policy, whether they are already well-established online or just starting to build their digital presence to set expectations in place for employees. It is important to manage not only external but internal online use because of the impact social media can have on your business. Legal problems can arise through breach of confidentiality, defamatory or threatening postings, negative comments, and the use of inappropriate or illicit sites.

Key Take Away Points 

  • The purpose of a social media policy is to set expectations for the conduct of employees on-line in relation to your business 
  • Educate your employees with practical guidelines as to their responsibilities and obligations when participating online
  • A social media policy is to manage your risk in relation to legal issues and social media crises
  • Preserve your business reputation and brand
  • Your employees must not represent their opinions as those of your business
  • Your social media policy should be updated regularly as social media and social media rules move fast

Jaclyn-Mae Floro, BCompSc

Contact W3IP Law on 1300 776 614 or 0451 951 528 for more information about any of our services or get in touch at law@w3iplaw.com.au

 
Disclaimer. The material in this post represents general information only and should not be taken to be legal advice.

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