You need to take control of that effect with clear standards for your employees' personal social media behavior, as well as interactions on your business platforms. That means providing clear requirements, generally in a written Social Media Policy. Here are some of the legal considerations you'll want to account for in yours.
Social Media Activity on Business Accounts or in the Business’s NameYour strongest prohibitions and requirements for social media interaction should be for activities on the business’s accounts or conducted in the business's name. As a business owner, you have the right to protect your business’s interests and take action to protect the business’s reputation. You also have a legal responsibility to lay out standards of behavior. If your employees do anything illegal on your business's social media accounts, you can be held fully liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior. It doesn't matter that you disagreed with the action or that you didn't sanction it. The fact that one of your employees did it on your business's account will generally be enough to make you legally liable for the behavior.
In your Social Media Policy, you should lay out precise standards for how employees are to handle activities and interactions on your business's social media accounts or when explicitly acting in the business's name. Make it clear what you want employees to do and what you want them to refrain from doing. Provide examples. Also make it clear what the consequences of violating the standards will be.
Defamation and Disclosure of Confidential InformationOne of the other legal considerations that you must account for in your Social Media Policy is defamation, of your business or its customers. Defamation has become an increasing problem as people tend to rant about their employers, clients, or customers on their social media pages. While you don’t have to include provisions regarding defamation in your Social Media Policy, any defamation claims you may bring will be more likely to stick if you provide this information as part of your policy. Keep in mind that, in general, expressions of frustration and disgruntled responses aren't enough to create a defamation claim. The statements must be false, and they must harm your business.
The disclosure of confidential information will not fall under defamation, but it can potentially damage your business. Your social media policy should also include information on prohibited disclosures on social media platforms. For instance, your employees might assume they're in the clear if they vaguely reference an account or a client, using some code name. But even those code names could backfire if they can be associated with confidential information belonging to the business or its clients.
ConsequencesYou can impose a number of disciplinary actions for violations of your Social Media Policy. However, before you take action, you should spell out the consequences for all prohibited actions in your policy. Base the severity of the discipline on the severity of the offense: Warnings may be appropriate for minor indiscretions, while more severe violations, such as disclosure of confidential information, may warrant suspension or termination. Just make sure that it is clear from the beginning what these consequences will be.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.