Social media is the use of a website to turn communication into an interactive dialog among individuals. Many businesses are using social media websites as marketing tools and have been very successful with this marketing approach. Facebook is probably the most popular social media and has 500 million users. Facebook is a website which allows friends to connect and interact. Linked-In is a social media website where professionals connect and interact. As a result of the significant amount of individuals using these social media websites, a significant portion of a business’s employees are members of a social media website. So, it is very important that business owners consider a social media policy.
If a social media policy is adopted, it will need to be distributed to employees, who should then acknowledge the policy in writing. The policy will usually not prevent an employee from participating in a social media website, nor discourage them from publishing personal information. However, the policy will require employees to avoid posting any information on these social media websites which in any way could harm the business. The policy should cover whether the activity takes place during or outside of regular business hours and whether or not it is done with the use of firm or non-firm equipment.
If an employee chooses to identify themselves as an employee of a particular business on the social media website, the business may request the employee to do all of the following:
- Require the employees to state that any views expressed on the social media network are the employee’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the business;
- Be certain not to disclose any information that is confidential to the business or to any of the business’s customers and/or clients;
- Refrain from making statements about the business, their coworkers, customers, clients, or competitors, which could be considered as harassing, threatening, libelous, or defamatory in any way;
- Refrain from acting as a business spokesperson or posting any comments as a representative of the business on the social media website.
- Behave in an appropriate manner, be courteous, respectful, and thoughtful about how other employees may be affected by any postings and do not share any communication that engages in personal or sexual harassment, unfounded accusations, or remarks that would contribute to a hostile work environment; and
- Give the business access to his or her personal social medial websites to make sure that the policy is being followed.
When used in an appropriate manner, social network websites can be a very effective marketing tool. However, they can also be misused. Businesses should consider a social media policy before an incident occurs in order to protect itself and its employees.
NOTE: This general summary of the law should not be used to solve individual problems since slight changes in the fact situation may require a material variance in the applicable legal advice.
James F. Contini II, Esq.
Certified Specialist in Estate Planning,
Trust & Probate Law by the OSBA
Krugliak, Wilkins, Griffiths & Dougherty Co., LPA
158 N. Broadway
New Philadelphia, Ohio 44663