Why Your Company Needs a Social Media Policy

Why Your Company Needs a Social Media Policy

With more employees posting potentially damaging content online, business owners need to learn how to best protect their brand’s goodwill.

The Problem

You might remember the 2013 photo of a Burger King employee posting a photo of himself lying on a pile hamburger buns to Instagram. The photo, which was relatively tame, still went viral.

While viral moments are often hilarious for outsiders - it can create headaches for employers looking to prevent employees from abusing social media on the job to the detriment of the company.

A 2013 study conducted by the York College’s Center for Professional Excellence reported that 50% of human resource professionals have seen increased abuse of IT by employees. In response to this, many lawyers, such as Daniel Handman of Hirschfeld Kraemer LLP, advise employers that “social media policies are not just as necessary for employers as discrimination, leave and vacation policies.” 

Elements of a Social Media Policy

  • Remind employees of their employment agreement and policies included in their employee handbook.
  • State that the social media policy applies to social networks, blogs, and wikis used for professional and personal purposes.
  • Define what information is confidential and state that social media posts should not disclose confidential information of the company or of third parties that have disclosed information to the company.
  • When commenting on a business function online, the employee should include a disclaimer stating that “the views expressed are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of x company.”
  • Posts should not include the company’s logos, trademarks, or copyrighted material unless permission is asked for and granted.
  • Postings must respect copyright, privacy, fair use, financial disclosure, and all other applicable laws.
  • Disclaimer not to use their company email address for personal matters. 

Does a social media policy infringe my employee’s free speech?

Your social media policy cannot prohibit employees from lawfully discussing their working conditions online.

The National Labor Relations Act gives all employees the right to engage in protected concerted activity for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid and protection. Typically, this means that employees do have the right to discuss their working conditions online - even on social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. 

What company information can a social media policy protect?

A well-drafted social media policy will outline what company information is considered confidential. As an employer, you are encouraged to define what kinds of information your employees can and cannot share online. 

Social Media Policy Database

Chris Boudreaux of Social Media Governance has compiled a database of 100+ social media policies from universities, companies, and other organizations. 

For example, the database includes the social media policy used by the Associated Press for its employees. You can view these example policies to formulate your own. 

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