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Problems With Social Media In The Workplace

I received an invite to attend a seminar. Here is the blurb: "Social media use brings both benefit and risk to an employer. Implementing and uniformly enforcing a social media policy, as well as understanding current state and federal laws pertaining to social media use, is essential for organizations and their employees. Participants at this workshop will learn how to protect their company from legal risks and liabilities of social media use in the workplace by instituting compliant policies, while gaining a full understanding of employee and employer rights and obligations." As leaders and/or consultants to companies, are you talking with your GC's and other advisors and creating a policy? If so, what type (do you want to share a redacted version)?


Topic Expert
Keith Perry
Title: Director of Global Accounting
Company: Agrinos, Inc.
(Director of Global Accounting, Agrinos, Inc.) |


As CFO of Social Media Club (new to me, but they've been active since 2006), this is very common from the Marketing side of the house. I get the feeling that they've been shouting at us for awhile. We (SMC) do quite a bit of training in this space, but mostly, it has been the Mkt folks, not the HR/Legal/Fin/Admin showing up.

However, I have been pulled in on contract to address this at several firms, and the momentum is growing. The majority of companies seem to believe that if they ignore social media, if they don't take an official position, it is like not taking a position with the WSJ: that it will be a source unreliable and ignored.

That this is a very wrong assumption, provably, has not helped. What happens is that companies get burned (or smart ones get singed and don't want it to get worse). They find an incentive to start learning. That's when my phone rings.

Generally, where we've fallen is that the policy is generally covered already in the overall spread of HR rules. However, we don't just want an excuse to *fire* people; we want to prevent mistakes. So, with that in mind, the focus has been on training. The policies, which compile and explain the rules in the context of Social Media, have actually mapped more toward training and less to "letter of the law." The law bit is already, generally, covered. The emphasis, both in writing the policy and in conducting the training, has been on judgement and gray areas that we all run into (for example, by posting this right now on Proformative).

My current syllabus is here.
1. IBM Social Computing Guidelines
2. AP Stylebook 2009, Briefing on Media Law
3. Conduct on the Pentagon Reservation, Title 32, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 234 [PDF]
4. Use of Social Media at FEMA, August 14, 2009
5. Social Media Business Council, Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit
6. Social Media Policy Template by Eric Schwartzman



Topic Expert
Keith Perry
Title: Director of Global Accounting
Company: Agrinos, Inc.
(Director of Global Accounting, Agrinos, Inc.) |

Note: Schwartzman provides a very rough template. I strongly advise that if you use this or similar, that you treat it as a framework and not an answer. It is (for a very rough doc) a good starting point to hang your own banner. If used in a vacuum, it would likely (imho) be damaging both due to defects in the template and due to conflicts between current HR policy and what is presented in the template.


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