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Why do I need a social media policy?

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In the aftermath of the London riots, the role of social media in enabling the events has come under scrutiny.

Social media has a number of advantages for business and we read a lot about how it can be used to build brands etc. Inevitably, there are risks for employers and those who do not have a social media policy in place, which could be leaving themselves exposed to risk. 

The main threats to an employer from misuse are:

  • Damage to reputation
  • Breach of confidentiality
  • Waste of time
  • Liability to employees and other third parties

When society sneezes, employers catch a cold (to misquote an old saying). 

Last year, law firm Pannone surveyed 100 HR directors and found that 79 per cent of employers do not have a social networking policy. 

In the light of recent events, we suggest that a social media policy is now a “must”. It is partly to ensure a consistent and fair management style and it is partly to set out clear standards for behaviour with likely sanctions for breach.

One of the biggest concerns for employers arising from the use of unfettered social media usage is damage to its reputation. According to research carried out by YouGov last year, 10 per cent of under-35s have posted inappropriate comments about their employer on social networking sites, compared to only 3.8 per cent of over-45s. 

In tackling this Hydra-like problem, you should strike a balance between the protection of confidential business information and your reputation, while managing employees’ wishes to use online media. 

Social media policies should: 

  • Set out your expectations about the use of social media.
  • Clarify the standards of behaviour expected of employees in relation to social media use, both during work time and in their own private time.
  • You can consider forbidding the posting of content related to work on social networking sites. 
  • Set out details about monitoring processes, data protection issues and acceptable usage issues. 
  • Provide guidance about the consequences a breach of the policy.
  • Make sure that the social media policy links to other relevant policies, for example, internet and email and dignity at work policies. 
  • You may wish to consider blocking access to some sites to avoid risk, such as viruses or system corruption. 

Kate Russell is the founder of Russell HR Consulting.

Not sure how to write your social media policy? This article gives you guidance on what you should include.

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