The second generation of the World Wide Web, commonly referred to as Web 2.0, is ever expanding and giving users more ability than ever to collaborate and interact with each other in a virtual community. Even if you and your clients aren’t actively involved in Web 2.0 sites such as Facebook, Blogger, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, Wikis, Digg, and so forth, it’s highly likely that at least some of your employees are using them. There are actually many business benefits and opportunities to be had by using Web 2.0 portals to link your company with your clients and suppliers, such as lowering your cost to do business, increasing revenues, making marketing more cost effective, the speed and ease of access to information, and such. That said, using social media isn’t risk-free.
One way you can manage the risks associated with social media is by creating a social media policy. A comprehensive policy with the specifics on training, supervisions, and employee responsibility is especially vital if you require, or even encourage, any employee to blog or utilize social media on behalf of your business. You should also consider carrying a media liability insurance policy or a similar social media-specific coverage.
Regardless of whether you require, ask, or encourage employees to utilize social media on your behalf or not, you should still have a policy pertaining to what your employees do with their own time on social media. The following are some key areas that should be covered:
- If you don’t have bargaining agreements or employment contracts that would limit your options for termination, then you can remind your staff that their employment is at-will, meaning you retain the option to end their employment at any time for any non-discriminatory reason.
- You should make it clear that your policy on internet usage, privacy, non-competition, nondisclosure, ethics, and so forth will run concurrently with your social media policy. For example, your internet usage policy probably states that you have access to monitor the sent and received messages on your business’s communication systems. You will want to make it clear that you have the same access when the communication systems are used for social media purposes.
- Inform employees of the risks associated with online publishing, particularly their risk of disclosing information that’s confidential. Give employees a specific contact, such as their supervisor, to check with if they have any doubts about the confidentially of a topic.
- Your policy should clearly warn against displaying your business trademark or logo, as these may give viewers the false impression that the speaker is representing your business. Employees should also be aware that they’re to disclose their employment and state that their views are entirely their own if they decide to publish anything related to your business.
- Employees should understand that they’re liable for the content they publish and can be sued for incidences like copyright infringement, libel, and plagiarism. Keeping in mind that state and federal laws allow some degree of privacy for social media communications that occur outside the workplace, have disciplinary actions outlined for the publishing of content that’s damaging or embarrassing to your business. Employees should be reminded that what they post about their employer, competitors, customers, and co-workers should be respectful and that they should delete inappropriate comments from any site under their control.
- Remind your employees to fact-check, make appropriate attributions, specify all information that’s opinion, and provide a safe means of contact prior to publishing all content. Some bloggers publish anonymously, but anonymous publishing can make malice easier to prove in privacy and defamation cases.
- Remind employees of the dangers of giving out personal information or clues that could allow online predators to obtain their personal information. Suggest that they review their privacy settings on all online social media sites. Identity thieves can often access sensitive personal information with nothing more than a birthday and name.