Find out how to manage social media use in the workplace — and outside of it

nordwood-themes-387855-unsplashWhen a tweet from Tesla CEO and Chairman Elon Musk in August suggested he could take the company private at a certain share price point, its stock increased — and the Securities and Exchange Commission responded by issuing both Musk and Tesla $20 million fines, claiming, according to an SEC statement, that the comment lacked an adequate basis in fact and had led to market disruption.

While it’s less likely employee social media posts would lead to similarly large sanctions, the incident raises a notable point. Sites like Twitter may look like a place for casual conversation — yet posts made on them can significantly impact business, giving companies a reason to be concerned about how workers use social media outlets.

Several years ago, a growing number of businesses began implementing social media guidelines to outline what they feel constitutes an appropriate use of social media in the workplace. The amount of companies with a social media policy increased by 20 percent between 2013 to 2014 alone, according to a Proskauer survey.

The provisions organizations include in social media policies can differ, due to region- and industry-specific laws and practices. However, in most of the more than 25 countries examined in a 2015 International Bar Association Global Employment Institute report, social media policies were generally found to strengthen employers’ ability to sanction workers for misuse, according to the organization.

If your company is considering creating a set of social media guidelines, you may want to consider integrating the following elements:

Identify who the policy affects

Some employees may assume the company social media policy was written solely for PR or other department members who are authorized to post items on behalf of the organization. Let the entire staff know if the standard applies to everyone in the company.

Indicate if social media policies include personal accounts

Seventy-seven percent of organizations clarify that their social media policy extends to employees’ private social media use outside of working hours, according to the International Bar Association’s research.

Protect proprietary information

Employees could potentially share confidential materials with the public via social media, damaging a company’s competitive edge in the industry. As a result, employers may want their social media guidelines to address employees’ responsibility to keep certain information private — and also specify what the company considers to be confidential, such as the names of current clients.

Prevent employer brand damage

Employees aren’t always shy about expressing their opinion online; 68 percent of respondents in a 2016 HubShout survey said they post comments and/or share content about divisive issues such as politics and religion on social media. Nearly 6 percent said they aren’t worried about posting items their employer could view as disrespectful or otherwise offensive.

If workers post controversial items from their personal social media account and identify themselves as an employee, their comments could potentially affect how people view the organization. Pointing that out — and also offering concrete examples of exactly what types of employee social media posts and topics may be problematic — can help them understand expectations. Nearly a third (32 percent) of employers have a policy about how employees can present themselves on the Internet, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

Define what the company classifies as social media

Including detail about what sites the organization considers to be social media outlets can help prevent any confusion. A company social media policy may govern employee Twitter and Facebook use, for instance, but treat a personal blog that a worker publishes differently.

For more on social media use in the workplace, view our posts on using unlikely social media outlets for promotion and whether it’s time to reconsider social media use at work.

For information about other factors that can positively — or negatively — affect your employer brand, download our free white paper on how to successfully build an effective employer brand.