With social media, prevention is better than cure. Here are some practical tips for businesses to minimise social media mishaps:
1. Have a clear social media policy that is regularly updated and that is linked to your disciplinary and harassment policies. Incorporate professional and personal use of social media.
We find that the majority of businesses do have a social media policy, but that it is out of date and typically does not cover personal social media use. Also, keep reminding staff of the dos and don’ts in the policy; send an email reminder to all staff summarising (and attaching) the social media policy on an intermittent basis.
2. Consider incorporating key provisions about social media into your standard employment contract, with the more detailed policy remaining in the handbook. If the business has, for example, a blanket ban on using Facebook at work, this could be set out in the contract of employment which can be more of a deterrent than burying it in a social media policy within a lengthy handbook.
Bear in mind, though, that outright bans are hardly worth the paper that they are written on as employees will still access social media via their own personal devices.
3. In the employment contract, refer to misuse of social media in the (usually non exhaustive) list of possible actions that could constitute gross misconduct, and also prescribe privacy settings linked to confidentiality obligations.
It is becoming increasingly commonplace to see, both in employment contracts and settlement agreements, provisions about providing passwords to LinkedIn, deleting contacts and undertaking not to reconnect with them for a period of time once an employee leaves a business. Query the enforceability of such provisions, but they may be a good deterrent.
4. Hold regular compulsory training for all staff, from director to ‘shop floor’ on how to use social media. Use this as an opportunity to provide examples of good and bad practice from the company’s policy.
5. Where practicable, have a designated team who sporadically monitor social media usage across the business. Ensure that the team are empowered to take immediate action, if needed, and to reprimand any culpable employees. Having a small team means that sanctions are far more likely to be consistent, which is also key to minimising legal claims.
6. Consider having a Gated Enterprise Social Network (ESN) to provide a safe online environment for employees to have a voice, but where the audience is internal. These are becoming commonplace (Yammer, for example).