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Social Media Is Putting People and Companies at Risk. Is Your Position Clear?

As the bad news grows regarding Facebook’s imprudent treatment of user information, you may be wondering if privacy violations are endangering your company or its personnel. At Marathon, we believe it is certainly possible. We recommend prudence as the best course of action.

All organizations should have a clearly defined social media “posture” supported by firm policies regarding the use of social media. Companies in industries that involve vulnerable populations, such education, home healthcare (e.g. assisted living) and others should be extra cautious.

Developing an Effective Social Media Posture

  1. Define and describe what your organization means by “social media” and “social networking.”
  2. Codify all instructions in a written policy, incorporated as part of the company handbook, with straightforward guidelines.
  3. Clearly define what is and is not acceptable. Some issues to consider include:
    • Will social media be allowed on company time?
    • Should employees be prohibited from mentioning the company, their work, their fellow employees, and/or the firm’s customers on their personal social media accounts? (While this may seem like an obvious prohibition, there can be legal ramifications for the employer if the restrictions prohibit legally protected “whistleblowing.”)
    • What restrictions will be placed on the sharing or discussion of company information, and will there be stricter guidelines for sharing proprietary and/or confidential information?
    • Will personnel be prohibited from posting company information on social media accounts—even those sanctioned by the organization—without explicit consent from a designated manager?
    • Can personnel post or distribute information about customers without their explicit consent? This would include not only company functions where clients are present, but also personal interactions, such as taking a “selfie” with a favorite customer on or off company time.
  4. If the company engages in social media for its own promotion, ensure the policy covers both company and personal activities and distinguishes between the two.
  5. Establish anticipated “behavioral norms” regarding the use of social networking.
  6. Develop an educational program for both incoming and existing personnel, with a signed statement of acceptance after education is complete.
  7. Clearly outline disciplinary measures for employees that violate the social media policy.

Social media has become so ubiquitous that many workers may expose your firm unknowingly. Take the time to ensure they understand the rules—and the ramifications for breaking them.

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