Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Drafting a social networking policy: 7 considerations

I could draft a perfect social networking policy using only a few words: “Be mature, be ethical, and think before you type.” Ultimately, you may decide that such brevity is what you want for you business. For the sake of completeness, though, I offer seven thoughts to consider when drafting a social networking policy.
  1. How far do you want to reach? Social networking presents two concerns for employers – how employees are spending their time at work, and how employees are portraying your company online when they are not at work. Any social networking policy must address both types of online use.
  2. Do you want to permit social networking at work, at all? It is not realistic to ban all social networking at work. For one thing, you will lose the benefit of business-related networking, such as LinkedIn. Without turning off internet access or blocking certain sites, a blanket ban is also hard to monitor and enforce.
  3. If you prohibit social networking, how will you monitor it? Turning off internet access, installing software to block certain sites, or monitoring employees’ use and disciplining offenders are all possibilities, depending on how aggressive you want to be and how much time you want to spend watching what your employees do online.
  4. If you permit employees to social network at work, do you want to limit it to work-related conduct, or permit limited personal use? How you answer this question depends on how you balance productivity versus marketing return.
  5. Do you want employees to identify with your business when networking online? Because this blog is affiliated with my law firm, Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, I am cognizant that everything I write reflects on my partners and my business. Employees should be made aware that if they post as an employee of your company, the company will hold them responsible for any negative portrayals. Or, you could simply require that employees not affiliate with your business and lose the networking and marketing potential Web 2.0 offers.
  6. How do you define “appropriate business behavior?” Employees need to understand that what they post online is public, and they have no privacy rights in what they put out for the world to see. Anything in cyberspace can be used as grounds to discipline an employee, no matter whether the employee wrote it from work or outside of work. There should be consequences for any information that negatively reflects on your business.
  7. How will social networking intersect with your broader harassment, technology, and confidentiality policies? Employment policies do not work in a vacuum. Employees’ online presence, depending on what they are posting, can violate any number of other corporate policies. Drafting a social networking policy is an excellent opportunity to revisit, update, and fine-tune other policies.
For more information on social networking, revisit yesterday’s post -- Do you know? Facebook and Twitter and blogs, oh my! What is social networking and why should you care?