Think before you tweet – time to check your social media policy?

10 November, 2015
by: Cripps Pemberton Greenish

With Twitter and Facebook an everyday part of life, employers must make sure they have a social media policy in place. Banning staff from using social media is impossible, but social media has significant dangers – and every business should ensure it has a comprehensive and up-to-date social media policy and that staff are fully aware of its contents.


Businesses need to ensure their policy reflects the primary concerns arising from the use of social media by employees. Client confidentiality will always be key and staff should ensure no sensitive information is released to the public. Such releases could not only be damaging to the reputation of the business, but in certain circumstances the business might also be legally liable for an employee’s personal use of social media. Employers could be also held responsible for online bullying or harassment between colleagues.


Staff need to understand how to guard against the damage that imprudent use of social media can cause, and protect their own personal information. Judicious use of privacy settings needs to be combined with an understanding that this cannot offer complete protection. Staff would be well advised to consider that all information they put on the internet is potentially available for everyone to see. They should be encouraged to self-censor their uploads both in terms of the amount and type of personal information they post as well as any comments or opinions they may share.  


Maintaining the boundaries between personal and professional relationships is also important. Depending on your business, you may want to advise employees not to accept Facebook friend requests from current or former clients.


Other issues your social media policy should cover include intellectual property rights. When reproducing or incorporating third party content, the position relating to copyright is not always straightforward, but staff should be aware they may need to seek the author’s permission.


Depending on the nature of your business, employees may also have to be careful about giving any advice, or commenting on areas in which they have a conflict of interest. Protection by anonymity is illusory on the web given the ability to trace authors, and so staff must be careful in all situations.


There are a lot of things to consider and re-consider on a fairly regular basis with respect to social media policies. It is definitely not a policy that should be confined to a desk drawer and forgotten about.