Employer Social Networking Policies: Part II

The following was written by franchisEssentials Guest Author, Megan Erickson of the Dickinson Law Firm as follow up to Employer Social Networking Policies that we reposted on this site last week. As you may know, Megan is the author behind the recently launched Social Networking Law Blog.

In response to last week’s post, one of our readers commented, “I look forward to your further insights in this area. It is something that “MUST” be thought out by companies today. They really have two choices. A policy of engagement in the Social Networks or staying out altogether. And if they engage they need to seriously engage their employees and impress upon them how being active in social networking sites means that they are a representative of their company and that in the long term their actions will affect the company’s rep in the world.”

Employer Social Networking Policies: Pre-Drafting Considerations, Part II
by Megan Erickson of the Dickinson Law Firm

As [recently] noted, I plan to write a series of posts addressing social networking policies in the workplace. In [recent post] post, I discussed some things an employer may want to think about before drafting social networking policies — including some things to keep in mind when starting with a sample policy. I’ll build upon that by offering a few considerations here for employers to ponder as they begin thinking about drafting, updating, or maintaining a social media policy. This list is by no means exhaustive, but is meant to help employers focus on personalizing social networking policies (and hence, make them more effective).

* Don’t be afraid to take care of some groundwork before involving an attorney, but focus these initial efforts on identifying the company’s business interests, needs, goals, and expectations as they relate to the policy. This will make your lawyer’s job much easier, and may save your company time and money. For example, if you want to encourage social media use among your employees for marketing purposes, your policy will set the parameters within which your employees operate. The framework for such a policy will significantly differ from an employer whose primary goal in establishing a policy is something else (such as the protection of confidential information).

* Brainstorm how the policy should address both: (1) online activity which occurs on company time or using company resources (i.e., blogging at work, Facebooking on company laptops, etc.), and (2) online activity, regardless of when or where, which may have implications for your business (i.e., complaining about work on personal blog from personal computer after-hours that discloses trade secrets).

* Thoughtfully consider how far the restrictions should go. Keep in mind practical considerations. Not only do many studies suggest it’s not good for morale or recruiting to ban all social networking sites or Web 2.0, an all-out ban will be difficult to enforce. Take a realistic approach, and bear in mind ad-hoc policing could easily lead to selective enforcement issues down the road.

* How do you monitor employee technology use? Federal and state privacy laws should shape your policy.

* Consider quirks of your particular workplace technology that might present special considerations. For example: Do employees have company-issued web-enabled cell phones? Do you want policies addressing text messaging? Pagers? Off-duty conduct on company laptop during non-work hours?

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