As social networks like Facebook and Twitter are growing like kudzu does here in the South (for you Yankees, kudzu is a vine that was imported from Japan over one hundred years ago to contain soil erosion and now it is all over the South and can’t be killed) have you added a social networking policy to your employee handbook or as a standalone policy? If you don’t, you should. Already there have been several high profile cases where employees were terminated for revealing company secrets over social media, disparaging company officials on Facebook, and other transgressions via social media. In most cases if the company didn’t have a social media policy in place the jury found for the defendant.
Below is our policy. Feel free to use it.
Social Media Policy
[Company Name] takes no position on an employee’s decision to start or maintain a blog or participate in other social networking activities. However, it is the right and duty of the company to protect itself from unauthorized disclosure of information. Therefore, the following policy addressing Company-authorized as well as personal social networking applies to all Company employees.
Use of social networking media and technology include but are not limited to video or wiki postings, sites such as Facebook and Twitter, chat rooms, personal blogs or other similar forms of online journals, diaries or personal information postings not affiliated with [Company Name].
Unless specifically instructed, employees are not authorized and therefore restricted to speak on behalf of [Company Name]. Employees may not publicly discuss confidential information regarding clients, products, employees or any work-related matters, outside company-authorized communications. Employees are expected to protect the privacy of [Company Name] and its employees and clients and are prohibited from disclosing personal employee and nonemployee information and any other proprietary and nonpublic information to which employees have access. Such information includes but is not limited to customer information, trade secrets, financial information and strategic business plans.
Employees are cautioned that they should have no expectation of privacy while using the Internet. Postings can be reviewed by anyone. [Company Name] reserves the right to monitor comments or discussions about the Company, its employees, clients and the industry, including products and competitors, posted on the Internet by anyone, including employees. [Company Name] reserves the right to use search tools and software to monitor forums such as blogs and other types of personal journals, diaries, personal and business discussion forums, and social networking sites; and to use content management tools to monitor, review or block content originating from the Company that is not in the best interest of [Company Name].
Employees are advised that they should have no expectation of privacy while using company facilities, hardware, software, or other equipment or for any purpose, including authorized social networking..
[Company Name] requests and strongly urges employees to report any violations or possible or perceived violations to their immediate supervisor or the HR department. Violations include, but are not limited to, discussion of the Company or its employees and clients, any discussion of proprietary information and any unlawful activity related to blogging or social networking.
Discipline for Violations
Violation of the company’s social networking policy will result in disciplinary action up to and including immediate termination. Discipline or termination will be determined based on the nature and factors of any blog or social networking post. [Company Name] reserves the right to take legal action where necessary against employees who engage in prohibited or unlawful conduct.
Rules and Guidelines
Only authorized employees can prepare, post and modify content on the Company’s web site or any Company social networking location, such as a Facebook page. If there is ever question about the appropriateness of information to be posted, discuss the content with your manager or the HR Department.
All employees must identify themselves as employees of [Company Name] when posting comments or responses on a Company sponsored blog or social networking site.
Any copyrighted information where written reprint information has not been obtained in advance cannot be posted on Company’s web site, blog or social networking location.
When social networking, blogging or using other forms of web-based forums, the Company must ensure that use of these communications maintains our brand identity, integrity and reputation while minimizing actual or potential legal risks, whether used inside or outside the workplace.
[Company Name] respects the right of employees to write blogs and use social networking sites as a medium of self-expression and public conversation and does not wish to discourage employees from self-publishing and self-expression. However, employees are expected to follow the guidelines and policies set forth to provide a clear line between you as the individual and you as the employee.
Bloggers and commenters are personally responsible for their commentary on blogs and social networking sites. Bloggers and commenters can be held personally liable for commentary that is considered defamatory, obscene, proprietary, or libelous by any offended party, not just the Company.
Employees cannot use employer-owned equipment, including computers, company-licensed software or other electronic equipment, nor facilities or company time, to conduct personal blogging or social networking activities.
Employees cannot use blogs or social networking sites to harass, threaten, discriminate or disparage employees or anyone associated with or doing business with Company.
If you choose to identify yourself as a Company employee, please understand that some readers may view you as a spokesperson for [Company Name]. Because of this possibility, we ask that you state that your views expressed in your blog or social networking area are your own and not those of the company, nor of any person or organization affiliated or doing business with [Company Name].
Employees cannot post on personal blogs or other sites the Company trademark or logo or that of any business with a connection to [Company Name]. Employees cannot post company-privileged information, including copyrighted information, company-issued documents, or employee information.
Employees cannot post on personal blogs or social networking sites photographs of other employees, clients, vendors or suppliers, nor can employees post photographs of persons engaged in company business or at company events.
Employees cannot post on personal blogs and social networking sites any advertisements or photographs of company products, nor sell company products and services.
Employees cannot link from a personal blog or social networking site to [Company Name]’s internal or external web site.
If contacted by the media or press about a personal post that relates to Company business, employees are required to speak with their manager before responding.
Finally, keep in mind that information posted on a blog or social networking site is considered to be in the public domain, regardless of any personal security settings. Therefore, anything posted by an employee may be treated as if it had been stated face-to-face to the management of the Company. As a result, any improper postings or comments can be considered a violation of this policy that may result in discipline up to and including termination of employment.
If you have any questions relating to this policy, your personal blog or social networking, ask your manager or the Human Resources Department.
Don’t wait until you have a major problem. If you don’t have a social media policy implement one now!
Copyright 2012 by Jim Sobeck. All rights reserved. This information may be reproduced as long as full credit is given to the author.