Social media is essentially the online community where your customers, partners, suppliers, and stakeholders camp out to share information, promote products and services, and exchange opinions and experiences (possibly about your organisation).

As an organisation, you must recognise the limits and risks of social media, and how it can affect your brand, public image, and core values.

A social media policy defines the procedures and guidelines for how your organisation uses, engages on, and wants to be perceived on social media. It creates a framework of tested social media guidelines and protocols to help your organisation venture into this online community with the best tools.

It must be borne in mind that, from an employment law perspective, an employer may be held vicariously liable for the conduct of its employees, if such conduct is committed in the course and scope of employment. This includes social media conduct.

If content on social media causes harm (because it is defamatory, threatening, or discriminatory) or if it is obscene, hateful, or infringing of someone’s copyright, you can be held liable if it:

  • Can be construed as your organisation’s views;
  • Seems as if it has been endorsed by you because you have ‘liked’, ‘retweeted’, or ‘favourited’ it;
  • Is linked to you as someone’s employer or contractor, etc.;
  • Is tied to a work email address with you, your logos, or other intellectual property.

Regardless of whether or not your employees are speaking for you or whether you can be held legally liable, the broader public might view your employees’ conduct as a reflection of your brand. If your employees are acting questionably online, this will raise suspicion about your business or organisation too and you will face the public trial on social media before having an opportunity to set the facts straight.

Implementing a social media policy will ensure that all your employees understand what they are allowed to do and what they are prohibited from sharing and/or posting on social media channels from a corporate and personal point of view. It will be easier for you to take disciplinary action against an employee as a result of comments or conduct on social media that brought your name or reputation into disrepute.

The best social media policies not only protect reputations, but they also inspire employees to advocate for the organisation online.

What should a social media policy contain?

  1. Address the legal risks posed by social media and educate employees.
  2. Personal account guidelines to employees on what they can and can’t do on social media, including not posting content that is likely to cause the public to view you negatively or bring you into disrepute.
  3. A framework on disciplinary actions that will flow from a breach of the social media policy.
  4. An incident response policy to clearly define IT roles and responsibilities for the investigation and response of computer security incidents and data breaches.
  5. Protection of the confidentiality of your information, including trade secrets and client information.
  6. Regulate the use of your trademarks or logos.
  7. Clearly state what you deem acceptable methods for business communications.

An up-to-date and active social media policy is as essential in our modern world as telephone and personal computer policies were in earlier times. Protect your organisation’s reputation and ensure you are mitigating the legal risk social media usage poses.

Contact us to assist you with the drafting of a comprehensive and legally sound social media policy, that will not only allow you to educate your employees, but also allow you to legally mitigate your risks and act if something should go wrong.