Does Your Company [b]Have A Social Media Policy?
By Don G. Archer
I never thought I would have to worry about implementing a social media policy into my business until this happened:
We needed window washer fluid, so I sent one of the guys down to the auto parts store to get a couple of cases. About 30 minutes later he called and said that there was a problem with our account: we were over our spending limit.
So I paid the bill and we got what we needed. No big deal, I thought.
About 30 minutes later, I received a text from one of my competitors. He said I needed to take a look at what was posted on Facebook.
It turned out that the driver who was sent to get the washer fluid put a post on Facebook saying that we hadn't paid our bill.
I admit it ruffled my feathers. This was one of my most trusted guys. But I calmed down and asked him about it and he graciously apologized, and removed the post.
Still, I felt like I'd been betrayed; but it turns out this kind of thing happens everywhere.
If you don't have policies in place that inform your employees of your positions on these possibly inflammatory and discriminative items and your integrity is ever called into question, you may be facing an uphill battle.
But this is first amendment stuff, right? It can't be limited. You can't control what your employees say and post, and what sites they visit. Can you?
The answer is if you're an employer, there's a thin line between what's right and wrong.
The National Labor Relations Board says, "Workers have a right to discuss work conditions freely and without fear of retribution, whether the discussion takes place at the office or on Facebook." You can't implement policies if "those policies discourage workers from exercising their right to communicate with one another with the aim of improving wages, benefits or working conditions."
With regards to company-owned e-mail, equipment and websites, the employer has the right to prescribe how they're used and what's acceptable. You can legally state that employees should have no unreasonable expectations of privacy, they should refrain from sexually explicit, abusive language and that the consequences for violation can include termination.
But when it comes to social media you must be more careful.
If your goal is to minimize the embarrassment or harm that an employee can cause your company using social media, but you inadvertently limit their ability to communicate with one another in an attempt create a better work environment, you are stepping outside of what the NLRB says is acceptable.
So how do you create a Social Media Policy that's acceptable?
To begin, you could have an open-door policy that invites employees to make suggestions, ask questions, and have input in your business. Doing this can help you avoid many of the complaints that might end up online.
Secondly, you could create a policy with the intention of informing your employees of what is and isn't acceptable. Include language that alerts them to the fact that the posting of negative items—with regards to themselves or your company—could cause them harm as well. Not by way of a threat of repercussions by the company; but as a result of a negative image which could lead to lowered sales for the company. That could directly affect their continued employment.
Lastly, you could make your employees aware that more than 52 percent of employers now check a potential employee's social media before making a hiring decision. Negative items could threaten any future employment opportunities.
Here's a good example of the language of a Social Media Policy:
"Employees are responsible for the content they post online, whether posted during or outside of work hours. Online conduct that adversely affects (the Towing Company's) legitimate business interests or the interests of its employees, customers, vendors or other business partners may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination. Without written authorization from management, employees do not have authority or permission to communicate online for or on behalf of (the Towing Company)."
Controlling what's said about your business, your customers and your employees online may seem like an insurmountable battle. But if you approach it with thoughtfulness and diplomacy, and don't take it personally, you stand a better chance of getting the results you're looking for.Don G. Archer is also multi-published author, educator and speaker helping others to build and start successful towing businesses around the country at TheTowAcedemy.com. Don and his wife, Brenda, formerly owned and operated Broadway Wrecker in Jefferson City, Mo. Don is the Tow Business Editor for Tow Industry Week, and his bi-weekly column in Tow Industry Week is a must-read. E-mail him direct at firstname.lastname@example.org