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Employees on Social Media

Protecting your Company's Brand

You have spent thousands hiring a branding company to launch a new marketing initiative to accelerate your growth. As entrepreneurs, we often forget that corporate change is hard and that any new initiative needs top-to-bottom buy-in. Even if you have an existing brand with no new changes, you still work hard to protect your company's image in all public facing communications.

It is especially important in an era where we spent our lives and get our information from the internet. Most likely, your new marketing initiative has large and recurring dollar spends for social media campaigns to reach your prospects.

The entire house of cards falls apart when your employees speak about your company on social media in a haphazard way. Many employees have "public accounts" and are "friends" with other employees. The range of harm varies from innocuous posts that may talk about your company in a way that is inconsistent with your branding and marketing to complaints about bosses or co-workers. The former compromises your marketing spend while the latter undermines your leadership and company morale.

A good start to avoid these pitfalls is to make sure that your employee handbook contains a clear statement of your social media policy. Acknowledging that employees are all on social media, your policy should be designed to explain what they can and cannot say about the company and what the penalty is for such comments. While employees often rely upon their "understanding" of their First Amendment rights, it is imperative that they understand that protecting your business brand is a company's right. This is particularly important in instances where HIPAA regulations apply to your industry and a seemingly innocent comment online exposes you to regulatory scrutiny. Picture an obstetrics nurse who posts about a particularly difficult delivery at work that day but is thankful that the baby boy is going to live. Examining the nurse's open Facebook or LinkedIn profile will tell you where she works and from there, it is easy to track the delivery. The employee will likely be shocked that the hospital can fire her for this post and will likely fall back on the standard First Amendment argument. However, it is well within a private entity's rights to ensure compliance and protect its patients and brand.

Key Takeaways

  1. Every company must have an employee handbook and further, that it has been updated at least every two years. It is entirely possible that one drafted even two (2) years ago will not contain language that protects you against these situations.
  2. Make sure that your social media policy explains the parameters of what can and cannot be said on social media about the employee's experience at the company.
  3. Your employee handbook should have a clearly defined discipline structure that explains the serious nature of policy violations and how the company intends to handle such violations.
  4. Employees should be trained on and have the opportunity to ask questions about the social media policy, including a robust discussion about the applicability of the First Amendment in such instances.
  5. Your marketing and leadership team should educate all levels of employees on the company's marketing initiatives and instruct employees about the types of posts that would affect these branding efforts.

The information contained in this Blog is for general information purposes only and is not intended to provide specific legal advice to any individual and/or entity. Please contact an attorney for situation specific legal advice.

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