Businesses Encouraged to Adopt Social Media Policies

Douglas A. Cherry

Douglas A. Cherry

Many business owners, particularly those with a limited marketing budget or no marketing plan, view access to social media as free marketing. What could be better? Ask paid employees to get out the “buzz” as an assignment. But every business should know that free marketing may give rise to potential pitfalls that are detrimental to not only immediate sales, but also long-term growth and security of your company’s brand.

Social network users often act with surprising candor. Simply put, people write things online that they would never say to someone in person. Messages are often terse and informal, and can miss context.

This poses a risk to your business. Unknowingly, employees can bind their employer with blanket statements or promises. With loose lips sharing inside company information, there is a risk that trade secrets and confidential information (of both the company and clients) are revealed or that the business is reflected poorly. Employees may also unknowingly engage in copyright infringement by posting third party content. There can be a violation of privacy rights to customers, defamation and security breaches. The list of potential hazards is long. If nothing else, social media use can be distracting and time-consuming in the work place and can lead to blurred lines between company time and personal time for an employee.

So what is a business owner to do? It is critical to have a well-thought out social media policy that every employee signs off on and that they know will be enforced. When it is clear to employees what a company’s expectations are, it makes for a more secure business for everyone. It is also important to know a social media website’s terms of use, and set parameters that will fall within the site’s use.