Social Media Policies for the Office

Joseph Stubblebine
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Social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook are both a blessing and a curse for HR professionals. With the right social media policy, you can use these tools to attract talented employees and spread the word about your company. If you don't have a social media policy in place, you may find yourself dealing with a publicity nightmare. "Business Insider" recently fired an employee for posting offensive tweets, making it clear you must address employee use of social media or face the consequences.

Pax Dickinson, who was the chief technology officer at "Business Insider," has a history of making offensive tweets. On September 17, he was fired from the company after a writer from Gawker Media published an article revealing some offensive comments Dickinson made about women in the technology field. His Twitter account also had tweets that had the potential to offend members of several minority groups.

Henry Blodget, CEO of "Business Insider," had to release a statement about how the company handled the issue. He said Dickinson's remarks were not representative of the views of the company. Blodget also said those comments had no place at "Business Insider." If you do not want to have such a public human resources crisis, you must develop a social media policy to address common issues related to Twitter and Facebook usage.

Your social media policy should be customized for your industry, but some basic elements should be included. One of the most important things to address is the scope of the policy. In many cases, you will want the policy to cover personal use of social media as well as work-related social media usage. If an employee makes comments that reflect poorly on your company, you can take action. It's important to give specific examples of unacceptable social media usage. Do not leave it up to employees to guess at what is acceptable and what is not.

If you have a harassment policy or other policies relating to your social media policy, be sure to mention them. Make sure employees know they should not make any social media posts that cast your company in a negative light. If Twitter and Facebook usage are part of your company's marketing strategy, make sure marketing and public relations employees know how to use these tools properly. Review the policy regularly to ensure it addresses new technologies.

Social media is a valuable tool for marketing businesses and generating publicity. Unfortunately, some employees do not make the best use of the tools available. Create a social media policy to ensure people understand what is acceptable when sending tweets and making Facebook posts. Doing so can save you from having to fire an employee and face the criticism of a sometimes unforgiving public.

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