1. Your company’s reputation could be at risk
Do you know who is Tweeting under your company’s name and what they are saying? When individuals post online, be it on Facebook, or Twitter they are “publishers” and the publications are subject to the same laws as those of professional publishers. Even a re-tweet amounts to a further publication. Make sure any employees with access to your social media accounts are fully trained and are clear on what can and cannot be posted.
2. Employee behaviour
Staff dismissals following inappropriate Facebook comments are growing. One famous example is the employee who posted: “Kevin is not going to work, f… it – I’m still trashed. SICKIEWOO!” You won’t be surprised to hear that he didn’t keep his job. In Crisp v Apple Retail  an Apple employee ranted about his employers on Facebook. Apple quoted their social media policy at the hearing that bans critical remarks about the company in public and, as Facebook comments are not deemed private, regardless of individual privacy settings, the employee lost his claim for unfair dismissal.
3. Comply with Legislation
UK Employment law does not deal directly with Social Media but other relevant legislation applies, for example, the Human Rights Act 1988, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 1998 and the Data Protection ActA strong social media policy will protect an employer against liability for its employee’s actions, will instruct staff as to what they can and cannot say, permit compliance with the law and will outline the employer’s disciplinary procedures. Communicate your Social Media Policy to all staff so they are aware how social media gaffs can damage the company. Written confirmation to say that employees have read and understood the policy can avoid issues in the future.
4. Where’s your Client List Going?
Who owns your employees’ Linkedin Contacts and Twitter Followers? Do you pay your employees to build up business connections to generate new leads? If so, and they use your contact database to send Linkedin invitations, these contacts probably belong to the business. The law still has yet to be tested on Linkedin connections, but it would be wise at this stage to use contracts and policies to clarify who owns what. In the US, PhonedogMedia has taken a former employee to court over Twitter followers. Noah Kravitz was a blogger for the company. On leaving employment with PhoneDogMedia, Mr Kravitz the employee changed his account name and took 17,000 Twitter followers with him. PhoneDog allege that he has stolen their customers and value each one at $2.50/month. A judge has ruled that the case can proceed because Twitter followers equate to a client.
5. An ex-employee posts his or her new job status on Linkedin. Have they breached their employment contract?
Some restrictive covenants are strong enough to prevent an employee from even letting online contacts know that they have moved. In a time of recession, businesses have become even more protective over their customer base and there are a growing number of actions against ex-employees for breaching restrictive covenants in their new jobs. It will be interesting to see how future cases involving social media stand up in the courts.
Now do you think you need a social media policy?