• 07/19/2013
    11:58 AM
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Social Policy Updating: How To Prepare

Frequent social platform changes, new laws and increased enterprise use mean it's time for a social policy review. Consider this advice on what to include.

Organizations should also keep new legal implications in mind when reviewing existing policy or drafting new policy. Donna Ballman, an employee-side employment attorney who has practiced for more than 25 years, works with HR professionals and lawyers on the development of social media policies. She recommends that companies have their policies reviewed by a management-side lawyer, especially in light of new legislation around social.

"The National Labor Relations Board is focusing heavily on social media policies and looking for language that might discourage employees from discussing working conditions. Policies they've found illegal included a policy that prohibited 'disparaging, discriminatory or defamatory comments when discussing the company or the employee's superiors, co-workers and competitors.' Many company social media policies include similar language," said Ballman, author of the book Stand Up For Yourself Without Getting Fired: Resolve Workplace Crises Before You Quit, Get Axed or Sue the Bastards.

Ballman also noted that several states have passed laws against employers that demand social media passwords, with legislation pending in other states.

"Employers who are demanding passwords for employees or potential employees may be breaking the law," she said. "Any policy saying they can demand the passwords may need to be updated."

In the early days of social, business use of platforms such as Facebook were mostly grass roots, usually with one person setting up a company account, on his own, to test the waters. Some of these accounts are still in use, which brings up the issue of ownership.

"Another reason to update policies is to make it clear who owns any social media accounts," said Ballman. "The company social media guru who starts tweeting as 'WidgetsAmerica,' gets 100,000 followers, and then switches jobs to a competitor, can easily change their handle to the new company name and take those followers with them. If they were tweeting as part of their job, does the company own their Twitter account? Maybe. A clear policy accompanied by a contract with that employee about ownership of the account should alleviate any doubt."

These are just a few of the many issues that organizations need to consider as they update, or draft, social media policy, and as that policy increasingly becomes woven into day-to-day business.

Do you have a social media policy at your organization? Is it currently in flux? What's driving change? Please let us know in the comments section below.

Follow Deb Donston-Miller on Twitter at @debdonston.

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