Social media is playing an increasing role in our modern lives – personally, and professionally. In a survey of 1,100 Australian businesses, the Yellow Social Media Report 2018 revealed nine in 10 business have their own Facebook profile – an all-time high figure.
Whether you have two or 20,000 employees, every business should have a formal written record of their standards and procedures for social media usage. It may come across as officious, however a social media policy shouldn’t be overly complicated, wordy or laborious. Clarity is essential; these guidelines should form a reference point for your employees. This go-to document should cover the foreseeable digital dilemmas such as your business’ definition of inappropriate content, how to deal with negative comments, and guidelines for maintaining the reputation and image of your business across multiple platforms. Still not convinced? From a legal perspective, here’s why a social media policy could be your company’s most simple yet effective investments.
SOCIAL MEDIA AT WORK: A WORK IN PROGRESS
Although social media has created countless opportunities, as an evolving digital space there can be risks for both the employer and the employee. And as the line between our professional and private use of social media becomes more blurred, now is a pertinent time to think about your business’ approach to social media. A policy is not designed for employers to dictate the private use of social media by its employees. But a framework of expectations should be in place for social media use in working hours and while at the workplace. It should also make clear the online behaviour that goes against the interests of their employer – such as the sharing of trade secrets or confidential information – even when posted on a private account.
(U) UPDATE, UPDATE, UPDATE:
A social media policy is not a ‘set and forget’ strategy. In a rapidly changing environment, it should reflect the trending topics and every high-profile faux pas that changes the social media status quo.
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Should social media use be banned in the workplace altogether? In some industries such as energy and construction this is the case. Without diving into the productivity, creativity and collaboration merits of social media in the workplace, if a company decides to ban use, they still need a policy in place. Why? It needs to be clear that access is restricted and there are consequences if an employee decides to ignore this policy.
Conversely, many businesses today encourage staff to use social media for tasks like driving promotions or creating brand awareness. Employees can be great brand ambassadors, but without the backing of a social media policy, employers are open to serious risk. The media often highlights stories of employees losing their jobs over an ‘inappropriate’ social media post. What can follow is an unfair dismissal claim by the employee due to the fact no guidelines were in place or they were not warned of their behaviour. Employees can also severely damage a company’s reputation, relationships and potential revenue by unwittingly posting trade secrets, internal processes and other sensitive material. And once posted, it’s virtually impossible to remove content from the Internet, even if you successfully lodge a legal removal request with Google.
THE SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY CHECKLIST
For businesses implementing a Social Media Policy or Code of Conduct, it’s essential the policy:
- Incorporates a definition of social media.
- Is consistent with the employer’s own approach in how it uses social media websites.
- Is consistent with the employer’s values, reputation and other workplace policies (including those relating to bullying, harassment, discrimination and confidentiality).
- Contains a clear definition of who the social media policy applies to.
- Sets out when social media websites can be accessed.
- Clarifies what employees can and cannot write on social media websites about colleagues, the employer, clients of the business, and whether the employee is authorised to represent the business in any of his/her comments on social media websites.
- May include a positive obligation on employees to report any breach of the policy by other employees.
- Sets out disciplinary procedures for breach of the policy.
YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY STARTS HERE
It is unrealistic to ignore the influence of social media in the workplace. Every business is unique and should have a bespoke social media policy that covers all bases. Whether you require a standalone social media policy or an addendum to your Employee Handbook, our Employment Law team can advise on a solution that protects your brand, keeps employees happy, and ensures you can take full advantage of a rapidly changing digital landscape.
To speak to our Employment Law team, please contact Maguire & McInerney Lawyers on 02-4228 5911.