It’s sheer madness to have Internet access in the workplace without a social media policy.
It’s easy for me to say that, but how on earth do you make up a policy? It can be difficult to find out how to write one if you have never used social media yourself, or have few ideas of how to even go about drawing one up.
The easiest way to look at it is to have online rules the same as office rules.
This is not just an acceptable use policy as our social media interactions are completely different from browsing or shopping online.
Adding on to existing e-mail or Internet policies could work, but as this type of media is used in different ways, it could have its own policy that is an add-on to work rules.
The advice in this post is for guidance only. It does not replace the need to seek professional advice.
Why do I need a Policy?
Some businesses have workers who don’t have access to the Internet at work, yet the need for a policy that covers social media is relevant due to the ease of access to the Internet using personal gadgets, mobile phones and tablet computers.
Policies will not necessarily have to be drawn up from scratch. For example, you may already have guidelines for the use of emails and the Internet that can be expanded.
A social media policy can “help” you protect yourself and your liability for what your employees do.
It would also help your employees to know what they are allowed to say about the business, and what they are NOT allowed to say.
If your employees use social media as part of their job, then be clear what is allowed and what is not allowed in each type of use. The law has to be taken into consideration and the rules for data protection and discrimination have to be followed with business related accounts.
What should be in it?
Explanations about what is appropriate and what is not. Explain how the use of social media will be monitored and what will happen for employees who breach the policy terms. E.g explaining how it will tie in with disciplinary procedures.
For employees using company networks, there are many areas you might need to cover. Wi-fi and Internet access, restrictions on software downloads, how to use firewalls, security features, time limits, Internet browsing and e-mail rules should all be interconnected with the policy that needs to be in place for social networking media.
Use of private devices such as mobile phones, tablets and computers, accessing the Internet and using Social Media on Company time need to be taken into account.
Social Media Specifics
State appropriate use of privacy settings. Remind staff that privacy settings do not necessarily mean that what you have shared on social media will stay private. Other people may well share the information and pass it on. If they would not be comfortable with an employer seeing what they have shared, don’t share it.
This could tie in with bullying, harassment, defamation and more.
Blogging, Facebook, Google + Micro Blogging (Tweeting) etc
Outline how an employee would represent the Company and set out the rules of engagement while using it. Ensure employees are aware of legal requirements around data protection, copyright and disclosure.
State how the policy will be monitored, and what steps will be taken if there is any negative result which impacts on your business as a result of an employees actions.
Set targets for use and engagement levels of social media for employees who carry out social media on behalf of the business.
How to Set Up a Social Networking Policy or Procedure?
Consult, consult, consult. If your staff are involved in drawing up your social media policy and procedures, they are going to find it easier to buy into the policy. It also ensures it is appropriate to your needs, and ensures that you have discussed and talked over the legal and confidentiality issues.
Consulting – or talking with your employees allows them to know what the levels of expectations are. Make sure you listen to your employees as well as talking to them. For monitoring purposes, having the support of your employees to agree to appropriate usage policies helps them to identify with the content.
Review, Review, Review
Reviewing social networking policies and procedures regularly is an absolute requirement. I would recommend a frequency of no more than 3 months apart to make sure that you are still carrying appropriate guidelines. The speed that social media is evolving, moving, and altering course means that the policy needs to be dynamic and interactive in itself.
What you find is appropriate for your business may not be appropriate for J Bloggs next door due to the personal nature of the media.
Be aware of Human Rights Legislation, the Investigatory Powers Act, and current Data Protection legislation. With those in mind, you should manage to draw up a fairly comprehensive social networking media policy that suits your needs. The policy should tie in with your current employment terms and conditions in relation to Discipline, Grievance, E-Mail, Internet and Confidentiality.
I would advise an employment law specialist or lawyer to check over your work for suitability once it is drawn up. The cost of professional advice could potentially save you a lot of money in the long term.