Developing a social media policy makes business and legal sense. A social media policy assists companies in managing employee social media use in order to limit exposure to costly legal problems. Indeed, employers can be held vicariously liable for legal and regulatory liability arising out of their employee’s social media use. Employers may be held for an employee’s defamatory, discriminatory, or harassing social media message, comment, or tweet. Companies are also exposed to employee leaks of sensitive company or customer information, or the improper use of the employer’s intellectual property and trade secrets. These risks exist regardless of whether the employee commits the offense at the office using company-owned computer resources or at home using their personal social media accounts, since they are often identified as an employee of the company in their social media profile.
In addition, a social media policy also serves as a communications guideline that empowers employees with the information they need in order to use social media in a responsible manner. Social media policies should contain a mix of social media objectives, values, guidelines, and best practices; rules on what is considered appropriate and inappropriate use of social media; and the governance procedures that the company follows when the rules are broken. Social media policies accomplish these goals by providing formal work rules for social media use by employees. Effective rules include provisions addressing both professional and personal use, and also set forth provisions regarding appropriate language and content. Implementing these work rules can help avoid serious public-relations issues that can arise when an employee’s inappropriate social media activity goes viral. For these reasons, and many more, it is certainly necessary to implement a company social media policy before your employees post something harmful.