Social Media Policy: What Your Employees Should Know About Disclosure of Information
Recently, an employee of a competitor company took to Twitter to post unverified tweets about Piggyvest’s involvement in an alleged fraudulent investment scheme. The employee went on to state ‘I work for a competitor, you don’t expect me to say nice things about my competition abeg’. This tweet was in response to an Instagram stories post which sparked a frenzy on social media, with Piggyvest users hastily withdrawing their funds in a bid to save themselves. The company has since discredited any affiliation to the said fraudulent investment scheme and assured its customers of the safety of their savings and investment.
Do you think it was right for the employee to have done what he did and should his behaviour be condoned just because it seeks to support and promote his company online? This behaviour, as it turned out, put his company’s image in a negative light despite his zealous intentions. Companies should have rules that educate their employees on conducting themselves properly both offline and online. These rules and guidelines are called Social Media Policies.
What is a social media policy?
A Social Media Policy is basically a set of “Do’s and Don’ts”, a code of conduct that guides employees of an organization on the best practices for using social media. Whether written in a short or lengthy format, it is a clearly stated document that guides the content shared on social media and the extent to which an employee can disclose information about the organization and everything about it.
Worthy of note is that these guidelines serve as regulation on both the professional responsibilities and private life of employees strictly in terms of social media use.
Social media policies vary from one organization to another. However, it often includes restrictions on disclosing confidential information; rules for what type of information can be shared; the personal identification of an employee as a company’s representative on social media; the overall expectations in terms of conduct, brand communication, and public relations management; and the penalties for breaching any of the codes.
Why is it important?
A social media policy is so crucial for your organization that even if you don’t use social media, knowing that your employees do, is enough to put one in place. Many employees are aware of the precautions that come with sharing content on a company’s social media account.
Still, many have proven ignorant of how the policy affects the content they can share on their personal social media accounts as well. It is, therefore, expedient to get rid of such costly ignorance and stay ahead of reputation and risk management for your company.
An organization can feel the importance of having a Social Media Policy in the workplace in many ways; the benefits can primarily be summarised into these four:
- It educates and enlightens employees on legal implications they may not have heard about.
- It guides expectations and prevents inappropriate behaviour that could bring about legal problems, public disapproval and sometimes, loss of clients and sales.
- It brings about the consistency of brand voice, identity and communication across channels.
- It serves as proof of good work ethics and helps maintain your organization’s reputation.
The line between a jab and a diss
In the history of digital marketing and advertising, we have recorded a couple of interesting brand wars here and there. Brands have thrown jabs at one another, undergoing a silent battle of creativity, intelligence and wit – a battle of who can do what better, backed up with facts, statistics, and sometimes sentiments. However, one thing is certain: they keep the war clean and free from falsehood, unverified information and false accusations. The goal is to prove why yours is better, not to completely put down another’s.
Some employees can be extra zealous, and in a bid to show their loyalty towards their company or jump on recent trends, go about dissing competitors and spreading all forms of rumours about them. This lacks creativity, credibility and every sense of integrity and even though it may have been expressed on a personal channel and without the knowledge of the company, the fact that it’s coming from an employee can cause serious damage to the company. Hence the need to enlighten employees.
When should a company conduct its social media policy training ?
In today’s digitally accessible world, it is important for companies to set out the regulations, rules and codes of conduct that guide and inform employee behaviour on the internet as early as possible. With the level of digital penetration in the world today, and easy access to internet services on mobile phones, it has become easier than ever to incite or spark outrage on the internet with one careless or improperly worded tweet, post, or image. The resulting effect is the destruction of a brand’s image in a matter of seconds.
A company should conduct social media policy training for a new employee and follow up with regular training for all employees as the need arises. Whether a company is massively popular in different continents or is only known in a local area, it is important for all employees to be trained about policies that guide online behaviour.
Legal implications of careless posts on social media
The legal implication for any matter is one that is enshrined in law. Offences are only punishable if they originate from, and are backed by a legal statute. Section 4 of the Criminal Code Act Cap C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 states that “No person shall be liable to be tried or punished in any court in Nigeria for an offence except under the express provisions of the Code or of some Act or law which is in force in, or forms part of, the laws of Nigeria”.
Any act or omission of an act in violation of the provisions of a statute is punishable under that statute. So, if an offence is committed on social media and the implications for such offence are provided for in a legal statute, that offence will be dealt with, in accordance with the provisions of law.
For example, if a disparaging remark is made on social media about a person or company and such remark meets the provisions for defamation, the aggrieved party may bring an action in a recognised court of law for defamation.
Any legal issue which arises from social media has the same implication as any legal issue that originates outside social media, as long as there’s sufficient evidence to prove the existence of such offence or crime. Some common legal issues that originate from social media use include – defamation. copyright infringement, revealing confidential information, trademark infringement, discrimination and posting explicit images without consent.
Competition among brands is inevitable in today’s world as brands are always looking for new ways to out-perform each other. However, it is important for brands to set out policies and rules that guide employee behaviour online, so as to prevent brand disrepute or even legal actions in court.