About the Author:Martini Peres has torture tested cell phones and smartphones for industry leaders like CNET and InformationWeek. He remembers when 4G was just a screen on PowerPoint presentations and is fascinated with the amount of innovation out there. Marin has spent a lot of time with BlackBerry and Android but he finally broke down and bought an iPhone to see what all the hype's about. He also has too many tablets.and writes nesletters and blogs for Cyber world uk - Uk's leading retailer of Mobile phone accessories online
What’s your Social media policy?
New technologies present new opportunities, and new threats. why your firm needs a social media policy, what it should contain and how to enforce it.
Facebook; Twitter; LinkedIn: Social media has seeped into the online consciousness of hundreds of millions of people around the globe, and there are no signs of it stopping. At a time when business technology is becoming increasingly consumerised, the prevalence and pervasiveness of social media means companies off all sizes and sectors are having to look at how social media can work for them.
At the start of 2011, the research group Gartner issued papers on the subject of social media, describing how the technology provided “tempting opportunities” for companies to more effectively interact with everybody as diverse as employees, customers, business partners and anonymous users.
One analyst at the firm, Carol Rozwell, even went so far as to say social media “disrupts the long-standing rules of business in many ways,” and as a result “Those who participate in social media need guidance from their employer about the rules, responsibilities, ‘norms’ and behaviours expected of them, and these topics are commonly covered in the social media policy.”
The firm believes the pervasiveness of social media is such that it forecasts its use will surpass email as the primary form of communication for business users. As such, Gartner recommended companies of all sizes develop policies in order to effectively manage the use of consumer services for business – and called for social policy designers to ask seven critical questions:
- What is the organisation’s social media strategy actually is?
- Who should write and revise the supporting policy and who will be responsible and accountable for it?
- How will the policy be vetted?
- What training scheme for employees will be required?
- Who will enforce the policy and how?
- How can managers best help employees work out the best approach to take when engaging with social media tools?
- Have social media initiatives met their objectives, and how can efforts be made more effective?
Bradley Anstis, VP of technical strategy at M86 Security, says staff training on what is acceptable to post during or outside of working hours, is key. “Under UK employment law, employers can take disciplinary action against employees who post defamatory comments online that bring their company into disrepute,” he wrote earlier in 2011 on AccountingWEB sister-site, HRzone. “A growing trend is the practice of ensuring that employees have different profiles to use for the business versus social use, a practice such as this should be defined,” he adds.
Anstis presented his own elements companies should manage when it comes to developing a social media policy, including:
- Expand your company's existing acceptable use policies governing email and web communications
- Specify what is acceptable and what is inappropriate to post to social media sites
- State what can be posted during business hours and outside of business hours (if indeed there is any difference). Where there is no differentiation, clearly state this in the policy
- Let staff know that messages posted to social media sites will be monitored. This is vital
- Review all privacy settings on social media sites that contain your corporate profile. Educate staff about privacy settings too. Opting for minimal settings can expose your network to malware directed at popular social media sites
“Social media can make your staff more productive, speeding their decisions by providing them with instant information and feedback from customers and prospects,” Anstis says. “A combination of education, technology and enforcement will enable employees to keep communication channels open and maintain productivity.”
A social media policy for companies is critical for if they are to understand how to go about protecting themselves from any negative publicity generated through these sites, says Preema Patel of Bevans Solicitors to HRzone.
She highlights two areas for firms to focus on: Fair dismissal and suitable policies.
“All employees have the right to be dismissed in a fair manner and the onus is on the employer to prove that the reason for their dismissal is fair,” explains Patel. “As such, employers need to be careful in ensuring that the procedures that they use during the dismissal process are fair.”
It must be established that:
- At the time of dismissal, the employer believed that the employee was guilty of misconduct
- At the time of dismissal, the employer had reasonable grounds for believing that the employee was guilty of that misconduct
- At the time that the employer formed their belief on those grounds, it had carried out as much investigation into the issue as was reasonable in the circumstances
- It is in this context that the importance of having a robust social media policy that can be incorporated into workers’ employment contracts becomes clear.
When drafting a social media policy, Patel says it is important to understand your employers’ objectives. “In most cases, these aims will be to protect the reputation of the company, ensure that confidential information is not disclosed to the general public and/or that social media tools are not used for improper purposes such as bullying or harassment,” Patel says, adding that establishing and outlining the types of conduct prohibited by the company as a further point to consider.
She concludes by saying the increasing engraining of social media in everybody’s personal and professional lives will mean it will become “ever more important for employers to establish rules and policies.”