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Does Your Small Business Need a Social Media Policy?

Posted by Darryl V. Pratt | Jun 06, 2019 | 0 Comments

According to 2018 data provided by SCORE, the largest provider of  volunteer business mentors in the United States, 77% of U.S. small businesses  use social media for their sales, marketing, and customer service. If you plan  to use social media to promote your business, a social media  policy is essential to protect your business's reputation and avoid litigation  by preventing the dissemination of inaccurate, unflattering, or illegal  information. 

Here are a few tips for creating a social media policy for your  business:

Let employees know  that the guidelines are intended to help them understand how to use social  media in a positive way to help the business grow. This is an outcome  that will benefit both the business and its employees. Rather than simply providing  a list of restrictions, present the guidelines in a manner that encourages  employees to promote the business to potential customers, contacts, friends,  and family members.

Educate employees  about what they can and cannot share. Clearly define what information is  considered confidential or proprietary and emphasize that if an employee is  unsure about whether their post includes information that falls within these  categories, they should check with you or another designated employee. 

Note:  The National  Labor Relations Board has ruled that employees cannot be prohibited from  posting information on social media about pay, benefits, and working  conditions, which may be considered a form of “protected concerted activity”  under the National Labor Relations Act.

Provide your policy  to new employees and have them sign an acknowledgement that they have read and  understood it. Your policy can be included in your employee handbook or a separate  document, but requiring employees' signatures will ensure that it is not  overlooked. It is also important to review the policy with all employees on a  regular basis.

Create standards for  any employees who are allowed to post information on your small business's  social media accounts. Because your reputation can be impacted by social media  posts, emphasize that all information should be presented in a professional  manner, and posting about controversial subjects should be avoided. It is best  to give specific examples. Provide guidelines for responding to  negative online reviews in a respectful and consistent way. In addition,  specifically prohibit postings that would place the business in legal  jeopardy. For example, make sure employees give proper credit to any sources  they use in their posts to avoid copyright violations. Your business could be  held liable for anything your employees post illegally on the business's  social media accounts.

Emphasize that the  policy also applies to posts relating to your business made on employees'  personal social media accounts. Employees will often be associated with your  business, even during non-working hours. Instruct them to not to post anything  that would create the impression that they are speaking in any official  capacity on behalf of the business.

Note:  Some states  have passed “off duty conduct” laws that may prohibit employers from  disciplining employees for online actions that do not occur during working  hours.

Let employees know  that they are responsible for their postings and that failure to adhere to the  social media policy could result in adverse employment consequences. This warning will  encourage employees to be cautious about what they post online and to  double-check with you or another designated employee if they  have any doubts about the content they intend to post. As noted above, under  the National Labor Relations Act and state law, employers may be prohibited  from imposing disciplinary action for some postings.

Give Us a Call

If you want to take full advantage  of the opportunities for your business presented by social media, we can help  you draft a social media policy that complies with the law, safeguards your  business's reputation, and protects it from unnecessary litigation. Call  the Business Law attorneys at Pratt Law Group at (972) 712-1515 today to learn  more about our business services.

About the Author

Darryl V. Pratt

With over twenty (20) of experience as a dual-licensed Attorney and Certified Public Accountant, Darryl V. Pratt has practiced law in all areas of corporate and business law, non-profit law, estate planning, probate, guardianship, asset protection planning, bankruptcy (Chapters 7, 13 and 11), real estate, and taxation.

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