Tag Archives: SMpolicy

Social Media Policy – Part 10 – Conclusion

In summary, I have found in my research that a social class=”mceItemHidden”> media policy should attempt to answer the following:

What is the organization attitude toward social media?

What is the organization definition of social media?

Should employee be able to use social media while at work?  And if so, how and how often?

Should an orgainzation encourage or discourage employees to identify themselves as employees?

Should the organization require or encourage the use of disclaimer on employees personal websites?

What level of privacy will employees be afforded?

Should the organization be concerned about employees talking about work related issues that do not directly impact their work area?

What is the consequence of misuse or violation of the policy?

However, in the end the need for a social media policy is important to help employees navigate the world of social media as it relates to the workplace.  A social media policy is also important to employers because it will help provide guidelines and a framework to be used when addressing issues involving employees’ use of such technologies.

What are your final thoughts?  Did I miss anything?

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Social Media Policy – Part 9 – Productivity and Impact of Misuse


 Social media tools can be valuable resources when used for work-related activities, but inappropriate use of these tools can be a drain on employer resources.  Therefore, if an employer supports the use of social media tools during work hours, then that employer’s social media policy should include a reminder to employees that their use of social media tools should not negatively impact their work productivity.

So what is your experience?  Are people more or less productive when allowed to use social media tools?  How should employers address this issue?

Impact of Misuse

A final and critical component of a sound social media policy is a clear delineation of the consequences that will follow violations of the policy.  In many cases, this component may be addressed by extending misuse of social media to those guidelines already contained in the existing employee handbook.  However, it is critical that the social media policy be clear about the consequences if the policy is violated.

What should be the consequence for misuse?  Termination? A fatherly disapproving talk from a boss (which might make getting fired look more promising)?

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Social Media Policy – Part 8 – Confidential Information, Terms of Service, and Legal Issues

Although it may be a matter of common sense that employees should follow terms of service and the law and also not to disclose confidential information, most social media policies include clauses stating that employees are responsible for their actions with regard to confidential information, terms of service, and obeying the law.

What else should be considered in this area?  Does the policy need to be explicit?

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Social Media Policy – Part 7 – Commenting and Posting on Topics Related to Work

In addition to personal use of social media tools generally, employees may participate in and comment on discussions, news stories, blog posts, etc. that deal with topics related to the organization.  The organization should consider how such interaction using social media tools might impact the organization.  In addressing this issue, the organization should consider whether and under what circumstances employees’ use of social media tools to respond to topics, such as blog posts, related to the organization may be appropriately constrained; or should the organization leave its concerns in this area to the general common sense discretion of its employees?

What is the best policy for an orgainzation in this case?  Should organization say anything about indirectly work related issues?  Or should the organization rely on the best judgment of employees?

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Social Media Policy – Part 6 – Privacy

Most, if not all, social media websites provide options for what information a user makes available to the public.  Facebook, for example, offers options for who can view status updates, removing a user’s name from search results, and limiting who can view pictures.  According to a recent article published in the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology, most young adult users of social media websites are concerned about privacy and have taken steps to protect their privacy on social media websites.[1] (Special thanks to Gwynne Kostin for point Vandi article out to me.  Gwynne thoughts are here.)   The survey also indicates that the majority of users post truthful information about themselves, such as name, home town, relationship status, and pictures, on social media websites.[2] The article also states that roughly 35% of the respondents were concerned or very concerned that an employer would view their online profiles and 54% of these users also believe that it is wrong for people to access information that is not intended for them.[3]  54.3% of the respondents agree with the statement “[w]ork life is completely separate from personal life, and what you do in one should not affect the other,”[4] and 68% specify that they were concerned about damage to their reputations from information posted on social media websites.[5]  It should be noted that the vast majority of respondents took personal responsibility for what they post on social media websites and accept the consequences for such posts.[6]  Finally, 81% of the respondents believe that it is inappropriate for an employer to require an employee to include the employer or manager in his or her network of online friends.[7]  In any event, the CDOS should take care in implementing any policy with respect to whether, or under what circumstances, the employer may access employees’ private information. 

 One practice that an organization should not adopt is requesting from an employee any of the employee’s social media website passwords.  This practice would 1) cause employees to violate the terms of service on most social media websites; and 2) may cause a public relations nightmare, as it did for the city of Bozeman, Montana.

How should a social media policy address privacy?  Should employers monitor employee activities?

[1] See Avner Levin and Patricia Sánchez Abril, Two Notion of Privacy Online, 11 Vand. J. Ent. & Tech. L. 1001 (2009) available at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1428422  (hereinafter Levin); See related Deni Karsel, How to Create a Winning Corporate Social Media Policy, The Communications Strategist (August 26, 2009) available at http://thecommunicationsstrategist.wordpress.com/2009/08/26/how-to-create-a-winning-social-media-policy/; and Bill Ives, Is Management Focusing Too Much on Social Media Lurking and Monitoring?, FASTforward Blog (August 27, 2009) available at http://www.fastforwardblog.com/2009/08/27/is-management-focusing-too-much-on-social-media-lurking-and-monitoring/.

[2] Levin at 1024.

[3] Id. at 1026.

[4] Id. at 1043.

[5] Id. at 1039.

[6] Id. at 1031-33.

[7] Id. at 1044.

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Social Media Policy – Part 5 – Disclaimers

In part 4, we discussed identification of the employer by employees.  Related is the use of disclaimers.

The use of disclaimers is a frequently suggested guideline.  If chosen employers should request that employees post disclaimers on their personal websites stating that the views expressed on those websites are those of the employees and not those of their organization. Additionally, employees should be encouraged to post in the first person in order to make it clear that they are not speaking for their organization.

Finally, if the employees are professional or licensed, like attorneys or CPAs, those employees should check with their license authority to see if disclaimers are required by professional responsibility rules.

What else should an employee disclaim?  Or are disclaimers necessary?

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Social Media Policy – Part 4 – Identifying Employer Affiliations

As noted in Part 3 of this series, the vast majority of social media websites allow users to identify who they work for as well as other information about their employment.  If employees complete this information, they are to some degree acting as representatives of the organization and all of their posts may reflect on the organization.  An employer then needs to decide whether or not to discourage employees from posting their affiliations with the organization on social media profiles.  For instance, the Mayo Clinic’s social media policy states that Mayo employees should write all blog and other posts in the first person and make it clear that the particular employee is speaking for him or herself and not on behalf of Mayo Clinic.  The Mayo Clinic policy also states “[i]f you communicate in the public internet about Mayo Clinic or Mayo Clinic-related matters, disclose your connection with Mayo Clinic and your role at Mayo.”  Intel’s social media policy does not dictate whether an employee should identify him or herself as an Intel employee, but the policy does make clear that the employee should stick to the employee’s area of expertise and provide unique and relevant information about Intel if the post is related to the organization.

If the employer does not discourage employees from identifying themselves as such, then the employer must determine when employees’ personal posts subject them to the organization’s social media policies.

Should employers discourage, encourage, or remain neutral on this issue?

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Social Media Policy – Part 3 – Work-relate vs Personal Use

The line between personal and work-related use of social media tools is often not easily distinguished.  However, creating some distinction is advisable because it helps employees understand what communications and actions will impact their employment.  For instance, Facebook is often considered a personal social network unrelated to business.  However, one piece of information a Facebook user can include on his or her profile is where he or she works.  A Facebook user can also connect with professional groups, become a “fan” of the public profiles of politicians, businesses, and causes, and share materials with other users of the network.  Thus, actions on Facebook or any other social media website could have an impact on the personal and professional life of an employee and may reflect on the employer.

When addressing employees’ personal use of social media tools in the work place, an organization must consider the following questions:

1)      Should any such use be permitted?

2)      If such use is permitted, will employees be restricted to merely accessing social media websites?  (e.g. May employees only check the activity on their Facebook accounts?)

3)      If such use is permitted, after accessing websites, will employees be permitted to comment on, post information to, and otherwise utilize those websites? (e.g., May employees update their status or share a news story on their Facebook account?)

The impact of posting content, pictures, videos or anything else on a social media website can vary from insignificant to a viral event that becomes mainstream news.  Setting a social media policy will not change this reality, but it will encourage employees to think about what they are posting and the impact of such posts.  The following are some related issues that organizations should consider when addressing personal versus work-related questions.

So what is your organizations answer to the above questions?  If you don’t know the answer would you like to know?

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Social Media Policy – Part 2 – Defining “Social Media”

Defining what “social media” means is another factor cited as important to a social media policy.  This definition provides a framework for understanding what the organization is discussing. For instance, Facebook is commonly known to be a social networking platform.  Twitter is often called a micro-blogging platform, but some believe it to be a social networking platform as well.  Both Twitter and Facebook can be categorized as social media tools.  However, many traditional media websites are adopting social networking or social media aspects to their websites. For instance, the New York Times recently released a social media application, called TimesPeople, on the NYTimes.com website that allows users to create profiles and share New York Times materials with other users.  Additionally, the social media landscape changes rapidly and, as such, future popular services are either just beginning to develop or have yet to be invented.  Therefore, consideration should be given to what types of tools are to be included rather than focusing on specific tools when developing a definition for social media.  Broadly speaking, social media tools encompass any website that allows a user to post information that others can view or otherwise to interact with other users.

So how would you define social media?  Is a definition important?

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Social Media Policy – Part 1 – Organizational Culture

One of the key items to consider when developing a social media policy is the value that the organization’s leadership places on the use of social media.  This value system regarding social media will largely determine how the organization resolves issues with its employees’ use of social media.  Broadly speaking, organizations can be divided based on three types of views of social media: those that widely support usage, those that restrict usage, and those that fall somewhere in the middle.  The following chart illustrates the view of social media by such organization types. 

Supportive In the Middle Restrictive
  • The organization supports employee use of social media for both personal and work-related issues.
  • The organization places very few, if any, restrictions on the use of social media. 
  •   These organizations vary from organizations that are supportive of employee use of social media, with mild restrictions and well defined guidelines. 
  • The majority of organizations fall somewhere in this category.
  •  The organization restricts use of social media tools for both personal and work-related issues.
  • The organization blocks access to social media websites on the organization’s system.

An example of a supportive organization is Zappos because the organization adopted an official Twitter policy that requires employees to “just be real and use your best judgment.” An example of a restrictive organization is the U.S. Marine Corp, which has banned all access to social media websites on the organization’s computer system.  The Mayo Clinic, IBM, and Intel are examples of “in the middle” organizations because these organizations allow employees to use social media websites to discuss work-related issues, but the organizations have set clear guidelines as to what actions are, or are not, appropriate when discussing organizational business.

So what is your organizations culture?  Is this a good starting point?  What would you add to this topic?

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