The Internet has certainly made life easier when it comes to running a business. Valuable time spent chatting near the water cooler has been saved by social media and timely emails. Bulky filing cabinets that house hard documents are no longer needed. Instead, they’re replaced by your slim laptop or mobile device, from which you can access all of your files and records.

But have our computers and the internet really streamlined business to be more efficient? 

The occasional call from home from your employees’ families may be replaced by text messages every three minutes from your office manager’s excitable teenager while your accounts manager just posted on Facebook that he drank 12 mojitos at the company party last weekend.  Your secretary just tweeted “I hate Mondays” and this morning you saw that two of your employees went away for the weekend together from a selfie posted on Instagram. Yep, our personal tech and social networks have certainly compromised businesses and questioned the judgment of our employees… but does it have to?

If you don’t have a section in your employee handbook concerning a social media policy for posts and pictures, you should (and if you don’t have an employee handbook, put that on the top of your To Do List today). You can’t ban using Internet, private social media usage, or personal email accounts, and you can’t police everyone all the time – not to mention that your employees will resent you if you tried – but you can set up some form of company social media policy.

Here are five guidelines to instruct your staff on what is and isn’t appropriate work behavior online:

1)    Your employees are a reflection of the company. What they post online may be seen by potential clients, current customers, bosses, or future bosses. Have them ask themselves, “Would you want to work with this person?”

2)    If your employee does comment about work, the postings should not be negative or disclose any information that is confidential or proprietary to the company or other companies that you may be working with.

3)    Social media postings from company accounts must respect copyright laws, the privacy of individuals and of the company, financial disclosures, logos, trademarks or anything else that may violate laws protecting intellectual property rights.

4)    If an employee is your social media manager, create a separate set of guidelines and goals that you wish to orchestrate for this position to ensure they are aligned with company policy.

5)    Don’t forget to include that that the company reserves the right to request that certain subjects are avoided, withdraw certain posts, and remove inappropriate comments.

This is just a sampling, so you may want to see what other companies have created by typing in your search engine, “Social Media Policy.” For privacy laws and what you can and cannot include, you may want to contact your lawyer to determine if your guidelines are within your rights as an employer.

About the author

Christina Morales

Christina helps provide useful business and legal tips on UpCounsel for our customers and visitors. Having over a decade of writing experience in a variety of industries, she has also been very close to the legal space from a young age with family members who continue to practice business and tax law.

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