Checklist for Writing an Official Social Media Policy (Part I)
Even if your San Diego business is small, with just a couple of employees, it is important to have a social media policy statement. Indeed, you may need TWO policy statements: one for regular employees and another for employees using social media in concert with management and the marketing department. In this article, we will deal mostly with the former.
A “policy statement” is a one or two-page document that concisely lists what to do and what not to do with respect to some set of issues. For example, many businesses have a policy statement with respect to anti-discrimination and/or sexual harassment. These are often compiled in an employee handbook. Your California business needs at least one policy statement for social media that goes to all employees. A skilled and experienced business attorney can help. Here is a quick checklist.
San Diego Social Media Policy: Protect the Reputation, No Badmouthing
With business reputation being so important in this market environment, it is important to set guidelines for your employees about what they should and should not say on social media. So, at minimum, your social media policy should tell your employees not to badmouth the company.
San Diego Social Media Policy: Protect the Reputation, Do Not Embarrass Us
In addition to not badmouthing the company, a good social media policy tells your employees, in general, not to post anything that would embarrass the business and/or the brand. This includes not posting hateful and/or discriminatory comments, not posting unethical, illegal, and/or immoral content, and not posting anything in bad taste.
San Diego Social Media Policy: Protect Your Business From Legal Liability
There is also legal risk if your employees post positive comments on social media. If your employees do so, it is important that they disclose that they work for your business. As we wrote recently, the Federal Trade Commission and other governmental agencies can take action if the use of social media endorsements, including endorsements made by employees, is done in a manner that is deceptive. Social media endorsements are an excellent method of achieving brand awareness and of reaching new markets and customers; but, at the same time, any paid or compensated endorsements have to be disclosed.
San Diego Social Media Policy: Employees as Partners or Employees Need to Disclaim?
One of the trickiest questions for a social media policy is whether you want to encourage employees to “help spread the message” or whether you want them to disclaim and state that they are only expressing their opinion, not the company’s opinion. This is a business and marketing decision and is often a function of size. A smaller business has fewer employees to monitor and may have a tight-knit culture of staff with a similar set of social views and a similar level of loyalty and attachment to the business. Under those circumstances, having your employees share the company message can amplify the message and the brand in a way that is more organic and authentic.
If you are considering “employees as partners,” then your social media policy should be custom-drafted with easy-to-follow guides on how to use social media to promote the brand and share the company content (e.g., good tactics for linking, sharing, re-tweeting, etc.). As noted above, a separate and more detailed policy is needed if you are using employees to help with marketing and branding.
By contrast, a larger company may not have that cohesiveness and, as such, may need employees to state that they are expressing only their own opinions on social media.
Very likely, larger companies will have a hybrid: Most employees are required to disclaim but some employees are encouraged to post on social media but under the direction of management. Here, two social media policies will be needed.
San Diego Social Media Policy: Protect Your Employees
A well-drafted social media policy will also protect your employees personally and help them avoid making mistakes online that might put them at risk. For example, employees should be coached to be cautious about giving out their own personal information when posting on social media.
San Diego Social Media Policy: Protect Confidentiality
Likewise, employees should never post confidential information related to your business or your customers. This includes information related to upcoming sales, success (or failure) of a promotion, daily revenue numbers, etc. Maintaining the confidentiality of customer information is even more important. Such can lead to significant legal liability and should be strictly prohibited.
San Diego Social Media Policy: Make Adherence Mandatory and Explain the Consequences
In addition, any social media policy should explain to your employees that adherence to the policy rules is mandatory AND that failure to do is grounds for termination.
Contact San Diego Corporate Law Today
If you would like more information about a custom-drafted social media policy, or if it is time to revise your employee handbook to better fit your business and the evolving marketplace, contact attorney Michael Leonard, Esq., of San Diego Corporate Law. Mr. Leonard has extensive experience in drafting employee policies, employee handbooks, employment contracts, and the other contracts and agreements necessary for running your business. Mr. Leonard can be reached at (858) 483-9200 or via email. We look forward to helping your business succeed.