November 16, 2016


While 90 percent of businesses now use social media for business purposes, as many as 36 percent of employers block social media at work—up from 29 percent in 2012, according to Proskauer. Among JayRay clients, we’ve found considerable loosening of restrictions on social media use. Employees can easily access their social accounts on their phones and employers need to be wary of unduly restricting employees’ speech. It’s both a legal and an employee engagement issue.

The better course for most employers—to limit risk, support good employee relations and enhance the brand—is to have a thoughtful social media policy.

According to Sprout Social, a social media policy:
  • Helps protect the organization from potential legal risks and social media crises.
  • Provides guidance to employees about what they can and can’t post on their personal social media accounts regarding the organization.
Workplace Answers offers tips on what to include in a social media policy.
  1. Purpose and introduction. This is an opportunity to align the policy with the organization’s values. Be clear that the policy is intended both to encourage employees as advocates, and to protect the organization.
  2. Transparency. Here, include expectations such as employees will disclose where they work and specify whether they are posting as individuals or representatives of the organization.
  3. Respect. This section covers the need to respect the organization’s products and services, and to avoid harassment and bullying.
  4. Responsibility. Employees always have a responsibility to keep customer or patient information private, and to follow laws covering copyright, trademark and other intellectual property.
  5. Compliance. Reiterate that the organization’s code of conduct—especially regarding proprietary and financial information—applies to social media, and spell out consequences for not adhering to the social media policy.
Other considerations:
  • Remember the social media policy needs to balance employee’s Section 7 rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) with the desire to protect the company’s reputation and confidential information. This means the policy should include language indicating it’s not designed to prevent or discourage employees from participating in legally protected activities, including discussing wages, benefits and terms of employment. 
  • Be clear about what the organization monitors and remind employees what is and is not private. Anything created or stored on work computers and servers is not private. Neither is anything publicly available.
  • Once the social media policy is complete, train employees on it. This increases awareness of the policy and reduces the risk of social media misuse.
  • An annual audit will help ensure the organization’s policy is keeping pace with the ever-changing social media landscape and developing legal requirements.
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