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Nina Kaufman, business attorney, infopreneur, and the brains behind AskTheBusinessLawyer.com, to get straight-forward clarity about the issue.
What should businesses consider when creating social media policies?
Nina Kaufman: Social media policies are, in many ways, an extension of general employment policies that have been around for decades. Employers use them to set ground rules and expectations with their employees. However, it takes a delicate balance. As a business owner, you want employee and social media policies to set a professional tone for your company. But you want to avoid making them so draconian that employees fear they've dropped into a George Orwell novel, and look for the first opportunity to get another job.
Social media can be a powerful business tool in the right hands, and a powerful business nightmare in the wrong ones. One vital consideration: can you trust your employees to be mature and accountable? For some companies, it may be enough to tell their employees to "be responsible, accountable, and ethical." Others may need more hand-holding detail, such as not using and tagging the company logo on your Facebook page where you have uploaded debauched photos of yourself at a college fraternity party.
Is there any way that social media policies can infringe on an employee's rights?
NK: Many of the social media guidelines merely mirror what is already acceptable in the off-line world: don't blab confidential client information; don't share company trade secrets; be careful about where, when, and how you choose to badmouth your employer.
While companies tend to shy away from placing restrictions on employee activities outside of the workday, there's a growing awareness that employees need guidelines. With the Web 2.0, bad stuff can happen just as easily outside company time. Many financial institutions, for example, have prohibited their employees from using social media because of the great concern that confidences may be divulged, or that an employee may say something "out of compliance" with securities regulations. That said, it's one thing to have a social media policy, and quite another to spend time trolling the Internet to enforce the behavior.
Should employers ask employees to "sign off" on the policies or is it enough that the employees read the policy?
What should every social media policy include? What are the key elements to a solid social media policy from a legal perspective?
What risk do companies take if they don't have a social media policy?Read more at www.openforum.com
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