6 Tips for Drafting a Social Media Policy

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Megan Hargroder recently wrote a piece for Silicon Bayou on Finding a social media manager within your company. I was happy to see that she promoted the need for a social media policy, and even made mention of a personal experience involving a disgruntled employee who deleted the company’s 1,000 fan Facebook Page. Her experience as becoming more common, as a quick Google search of “employee fired facebook” brings back a litany of results about employees who were fired for their activity on social media. Since the consequences of social media postings can lead to fired employees and lost customers, it’s important that your employees understand your expectations for their use of social media. You can set these expectations in a social media policy.

A social media policy can become part of your employee handbook, much like you have (or should have) a dress code policy, a vacation policy, a sick day policy. The policy then becomes a guide as to what your employees are allowed and not allowed to do, and what types of activities can result in their termination. Here’s a few items which should definitely be in your policy.

1. State the Purpose

Tell your employees why you’re creating a social media policy. It’s import that employees understand the purpose of the policy before they will respect it.

2. Protection of Trade Secrets

Your trade secrets bring value to your business, so you need to make sure employees understand they shouldn’t reveal confidential information for the entire internet to see.

3. Let Employees Know they represent YOU

Employees must understand that any posting, status update, or tweet they send out can become a reflection of their employer. It’s important to remind employees that they’re part of the team.

4. Provide Examples and Clear Definitions

If your policy uses words like “professional” and “appropriate,” you should define those terms or provide examples. A policy is ambiguous terms with no definitions or examples may be ineffective.

5. Clearly Define the owner of the Social Media Account

Noah Kravitz worked for PhoneDog for approximately 6 years. During that time, his twitter handle (@PhoneDog_Noah) accumulated 17k followers. When he left the company, he took his twitter handle with him. PhoneDog filed suit, alleging they had an interest in the followers. The dispute between PhoneDog and Noah Kravitz still hasn’t been settled by the federal courts, and it probably won’t be the last such dispute over the ownership of followers. Decide early on who actually owners the followers, and make sure that both parties agree.

6. Draft your policy so it doesn’t conflict with the NLRA

The National Labor Relations Act is a federal law which the National Labor Relations Board has used as a tool to help define what can and can’t be included in a social media policy. When you set out to draft the policy, you must make sure that you’re familiar with the Act, and that you aren’t prohibiting any conduct which may be protected.

These six tips should help you get started with your social media policy. If you’re having trouble drafting an agreement, reach out to an attorney.