With the prevalence of social media in contemporary society, it is hardly surprising that it has made its way to the business community as well. The benefit of being able to directly connect with your target audience through Twitter or Facebook is invaluable. However, because of this increased visibility, companies are opened up to a wide range of legal issues exclusive to the use of social media platforms. It is important to understand how to protect company interests from the possible negative consequences social media can create for your business.
Ownership and Employee Rights
Let’s begin with the most ambiguous topics when it comes to social media in the corporate setting: ownership and employee rights. Both of these issues can vary on a case by case basis, making it hard to define just who has rights to what and who is protected by the law. Definition of ownership and employee rights can lead to questions such as: which party owns an employee’s social media accounts and connections? When an employee leaves a company, do all of those contacts gained during employment stay with the company? When does an employee’s social media account belong to their employer?
On the topic of employee rights when it comes to personal social media profiles, the waters become a little murkier. What exactly is off-limits when it comes to social media updates? Can those updates be grounds for termination? Whether the law protects the employer or the employee can be hard to discern in legal proceedings.
Questions like these can give rise to major legal consequences down the road if not addressed clearly at the outset of hiring an employee. The best possible way to protect your company against issues of ownership and employee rights is to outline and enforce a clear, companywide, social media policy. By establishing guidelines and expectations for social media posts generated by employees, on both personal and company social media platforms, you protect your business from both internal and external issues.
It is important to be aware of specific regulations regarding your field of industry when it comes to disclosure. Legal regulations involving insider trading can cover what is discussed on social media. Even unintentional announcement of non-public information can lead to legal ramifications.
As a result, it is important to clearly outline the regulations of your specific industry, whether in your social media policy or independently, so that employees are aware of what they can and cannot post on social media.
Social media is becoming ever more a part of our cultural landscape and that doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. While making the choice to incorporate social media platforms into business strategy can open a company up to legal entanglements, simple steps to prevent such problems can help eliminate some of the risks. Taking time to clearly define expectations and policies when it comes to social media can help to protect both employers and employees when it comes to legal issues associated with online activity. And, of course, whether it’s helping you develop a social media policy or reacting to an issue, we’re just a phone call away—and always on your side.
Next week, we’ll address everything you need to know about protecting yourself when it comes to libel and social media. Stay tuned!