Companies want to be seen and heard in multimedia. And while that may inspire corporate Twitter and Facebook accounts, they may have questions regarding liability implications of social media. And that's where you come in, esteemed corporate counsel. How do you advise your organization or company on creating a social media policy?
Here are some questions to help frame your discussion with the execs:
Is a written social media policy necessary?
Would a policy be in response to an incident or questionable use of social media, or is it forward-looking, aimed to outline best practices for social media usage in a company setting or for employees. You should consider how social media has been used in the past and the specific types of uses that could pose concern for the company. Even if there is no immediate concern, it may still be useful to draft a simple plan to guide online engagement.
What are major considerations in drafting a social media policy?
Consider any industry-specific or company-specific concerns that a policy could address. Lawsuits that have arisen thus far have commonly involved some form of defamation.
Who would a social media policy apply to?
Even though only a handful of the company's marketing or PR professionals may be responsible for official social media attempts, the reality is that many of the company's employees may be active social media users in their personal lives. And while their personal lives are very much their own, what they say about the company could be of company concern. Though the company may be tempted to issue a policy specifically on the company's social media team, you may want to introduce the idea of a broad company-wide policy.
Don't take our word for it: examples of social media policies:
Social media is not the new kid on the block anymore. And the good thing about that is that corporate counsel and executives can see how other organizations and companies have drafted policies. Here are a few to keep your discussion going...
A two-word corporate blogging policy (GruntledEmployees.com)
Walmart's Twitter Policy (Walmart.com)
IBM Social Computing Guidelines (IBM.com)
Remember, "refresh" is possible.
In-house counsel may feel like they are putting a damper on the social media excitement in discussing, drafting, and facilitating implementation of a social media policy, however the benefit to the company can be enormous. And one tool that in-house counsel has in its toolbox is the ability to update policy as needed. A good Twitter policy can outline general best practices, guide "do" and "don't" conduct, but will also allow for interpretation to cover unforeseeable circumstances. And, it will make updates and addendums seamless.
So, while it may not be necessary to dig a moat between employees and social media sites such as Twitter, prudent in-house counsel will encourage meaningful discussion regarding creating a policy to protect the company and its employees.