Navigating the legal waters of the internet can be a tricky business, especially when you have several (or many) employees to think about. Maybe you are not too worried about the legality of your social media activity because everything you post is run through your legal department… but did you know that you can also be held accountable for things that your employees are saying on social media sites about your company?
Learning exactly how this process works and how to keep this sort of thing from happening can greatly reduce the chances of you getting into legal trouble as a result of something said or done by an employee online.
While taking these steps might not guarantee your safety, they can definitely help to reaffirm the ‘safe zones’ as they pertain to social media, and can help you to communicate more effectively with those employed by your company about what they can and cannot do when it comes to the internet.
Step 1… Make Sure That Standards For Online Conduct Are Outlined in Your Company Policies and Procedures
If there are certain things that you do not want your employees to say about your company while they are online, then it is incredibly important that you spell out EXACTLY what these things are in your company policy. This will not only help your employees to know what they can and cannot do, but will also help to protect you in the event of a legal ‘debacle’.
Step 2… Make A Rule That Any Employee Statements Regarding The Company Must Be Okayed By The Company Before They Can Be Posted
This will allow your employees the freedom to post about their job and the company that they work for, while also protecting both them and the business from potential accidental legal problems that could result from a misworded or misinterpreted statement.
Step 3… Make Sure That Employees Know That Anything That They Say Could Affect The Company
Communicate just how important it is for your employees to be responsible when they are online, even if they are at home. As employees, they represent the company… and this is a responsibility that they should treat with respect.
Step 4… Inform Employees Not To Make Untrue Statements About The Company
This is sort of a no-brainer, but it is important to remember! If an employee makes a statement about the company that is not true, then it can have many consequences for the company… including consequences that can cross over into legal territory!
Step 5… Make Sure That All Employees Disclose Their Relationship and Include A Disclaimer With Any Statements
If your employees endorse your company, its products, or its services online, they MUST, according to the law, disclose the fact that they are employees of the company. If this rule is now followed, then it can eventually lead to attention from the FTC (in other words, start shopping for a criminal defense attorney!).
Employees should also be required to post a disclaimer that states that the opinions expressed are only their own, and are not a reflection of the opinions of the company or any spokesperson of the company.
Step 6… Make It Known That Failure To Comply With These Policies Could Result in The Company Taking Action
Having this fact set in stone within the company policy will help you in several different ways.
- It will give you grounds for disciplinary action should an employee break the rules.
- It will show employees that you are serious about maintaining your company’s reputation.
- It would show authorities that you took measures to run your company lawfully if there were ever an investigation opened up.
Social media is utilized by many employees all over the world, and there is no doubt that at least some of yours will also utilize it. You also need to keep in mind that a person’s job is a part of their life, so you should really expect your employees to talk about the company online at some point. That is why it is so important to have these policies and procedures in place BEFORE something happens that could get you into trouble!
Melissa Cameron is a freelance article writer, wife, and mother of two. She makes her home in the beautiful town of Austin, Texas, and can often be found doing yoga, knitting, or watching movies when she is not working. Melissa regularly utilizes onoine resources such as websites like www.bgs.com for research when she is writing articles about how to stay legal while utilizing social media to market your business.
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