Social media policies

It’s clear that companies still need to get to grips with the importance of having a social media policy in place. In today’s news alone, we see two examples of big problems that have developed because not enough forethought was giving to the possible risks of doing business within the context of the social internet.

Firstly, the Wall Street Journal is reporting a story about a company that fired a worker after she posted negative remarks about her boss on Facebook. The company has just has settled a complaint brought by the National Labor Relations Board by agreeing to revamp its rules to ensure workers’ rights are not restricted

Under the law there, employees are allowed to discuss the terms and conditions of their employment with co-workers and others. This has now been extended to Facebook discussions, and the case has become a test of how much latitude employees may have when posting comments about work matters from their home computers on social media sites such as Facebook.

A second story ran in The Telegraph. It’s about a British civil servant who claimed invasion of privacy when newspapers republished her Twitter messages. Her complaint was rejected by the press regulator

The adminstration manager in the department for transport used Twitter to criticise a number of the UK coalition government’s cuts, attack Downing Street “spin” and describing to her 700 followers how the leader of a training course she attended was “mental”.

As part of the claim, the civil servant pointed to a disclaimer on her Twitter page that her tweets represented her views and not those of her employer. However the Press Complaints Commission ruled that the actual audience for the comments was much wider than the woman’s 700 follows given the viral nature of Twitter, and it took into account civil service rules on political impartiality, which the newspapers said justified highlighting the civil servant’s views.

My take? With today’s social internet, it’s bordering on negligence for employers not to have a practical and detailed social media policy in place to protect both the organisation and the people they employ.

Sherrilynne Starkie is a consultant at PDMS. For almost 18 years, Sherrilynne has been advising blue-chip organisations on both sides of the pond, covering Britain, Canada and the United States. For three years, Sherrilynne was the Tech Talk columnist for the Isle of Man newspapers. She serves on the steering committee for Isle of Man Women in Business, is on the Executive Council for the Isle of Man Junior Chamber of Commerce. In the past she was on the management committee for the Isle of Man British Computer Society and the marketing committee of Junior Achievement.