Social media has become a global and pervasive tool for both individuals and businesses to build their brands, expand networks, foster relationships, and recruit new customers.
While the benefits of social networking can be clear, if not managed properly, social media can also pose significant risks for both employees and a company. According to the EY Information Security Survey, 59% of businesses had a “material or significant” social media incident in the last year.
Risks include irreparable HR and PR harm such as reputational damage and destruction of relationships, which could potentially cause loss to brand equity. There are also privacy concerns for employees for which the boundaries are blurry. For example, is it appropriate for a senior law firm partner to “follow” a junior attorney on Twitter? Could this activity be considered monitoring? For both employers and employees, social media activity can be uncharted waters.
In order to navigate these waters with limited risk, create a protocol surrounding social media activity for your business. A social media policy can clear up questions and guide actions, protect employee rights, and protect social media employer liability.
In addition to the risks of the potential PR nightmares and damage to your reputation and relationships, there are some significant legal risks that can be avoided with the appropriate policies. These confidentiality and privacy risks could pose significant concerns specifically for industries such as the financial sector, government, and healthcare organizations.
Here are some common legal risks that social media can pose and ways to protect yourself against them. Common landmines include (but are not limited to):
In order to mitigate risks, your HR department should work closely with legal counsel and marketing teams to design a social media legal strategy, social media policy, and/or social media policy statements in your current employee handbook and employee contracts.
Because employers can be held accountable for employees’ social media activity, employers have a duty to supervise their employees’ handling of social media accounts. In order to avoid risk, strong social networking policies must clearly outline what employees may and may not discuss on social media. Policies should be in writing and consistently implemented and monitored.
Social media in the workplace can be a great way to connect with clients and future customers and build a two-way interaction between your audiences and your company, thereby increasing transparency and trust. However, because social networking has become a cultural commonplace, employee training for effective and compliant social media practices is critical to ensure that anyone engaging in business communications understands the policy as well as the potential risks involved.
An expert business attorney can work with your HR department and communications teams to ensure that your employment law and social media policies are effectively integrated. Protect your employee rights as well as mitigate liability for your business. Contact our experienced business attorneys at Steinberg Law to learn more about how to create a legally compliant social media policy so that your team can connect with customers with confidence.