Nearly half of America’s workplaces have a formal social media policy in place and, in our view, if you don’t have one yet, it’s a good idea to get moving.
These policies, simply stated, define what employees are allowed to talk about and how employers will monitor them.
If you’re interested in protecting intellectual property (and who isn’t?) while giving workers a framework for online communication, then a social media policy is a very good idea.
On the other hand, we still live in a free society, so you don’t want to take the KGB route on your people.
Bad social media policies that are overly intrusive don’t make good business sense; they alienate employees and can generate bad publicity. You don’t want to trample on your employees’ free-speech rights.
The best approach is to establish a policy that is simple, straightforward and encourages positive communication about the company. Particular care must be given to younger workers, who are accustomed to sharing their every thought and experience via social media.
And take note that in some cases, social media comments are protected, as was proven last year when the National Labor Relations Board reached a settlement with a company that fired an employee for bad-mouthing her boss on Facebook.
In settling, the employer agreed to revise its social media rules to ensure that employees’ rights to discuss working conditions are protected.
Here are four things your social media policy should do:
- Clearly define what’s off-limits, meaning customer data, proprietary information, corporate strategy and the such.
- Define appropriate behavior. Cursing, cyberbullying and sexist or racist comments are obviously not acceptable.
- Let them know you are watching. If you read employees’ corporate e-mail, or track their personal and/or professional online communications, make that clear.
- Define the consequences of breaking the rules. Be clear about the risks employees face when they post online.
About the Author
Lon is the former publisher of the Colorado Springs Business Journal and Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group.He has served in leadership roles at various newspapers in Iowa, Florida and Wisconsin. Lon received his Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire and attended the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University. Earlier in his career, Lon spent several years as a sea captain and held a 100-ton Coast Guard license. Lon is a former rugby player, referee and administrator and now coaches under 13 year old kids. Lon has served on the boards of numerous community and business organizations including Colorado Springs Leadership Institute, Peak Venture Group, CS Quality of Life Indicators Business Index Committee, Junior Achievement and is a member of The Colorado Thirty Group. Lon was given the “Making the Pikes Peak region a better place to live work and play” award by the CS Chamber of Commerce, was the VFW Post 1’s business citizen of the year.