Tag Archives: social networking sites

Social Media Policy

Social Media Series: Employers Should Consider Creating Their Own Social Media Policy

 

This article is part of an on-going, social media series.


According to a recent ethics and workplace survey by Deloitte, social networking sites are a part of everyday life for employees, with 66 percent acknowledging that they visit sites such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr at least once a week. Although an employee’s use of these sites may appear on its face to be a personal activity in which the employer should not interfere, the reality is that an employee’s private use of such sites may have consequences that impact their employer.

Is an employee who engages in social networking for personal reasons at work being productive for her employer? Is an employee’s personal rant about his employer on his Facebook page placing his employer’s public reputation at risk?  Is an employee’s personal post on a social media site regarding a client business meeting placing her employer at risk for disclosure of confidential, proprietary or trade secret information?

Notwithstanding the expanding gray area between an employee’s private use of social networking sites and an employer’s professional consequences, only 22 percent of employers have a policy in place to control their employees’ use of social media.

So what should employers do? While there is no bulletproof protection for employers, they can help to avoid or mitigate some legal and ethical consequences by establishing an appropriate social media policy that fits their unique culture. Employers would certainly be wise not to simply copy a social media policy off the Internet. The policy for a small employer may be different than that of a large employer. The policy for a school may be different than that for a for-profit business. For example, a policy for a school may prohibit staff is from “friending” students, while a for-profit business may encourage staff to engage with clients and potential clients through social media as a form of professional networking — albeit with guidelines concerning proprietary and confidential information in place. On a general level, almost all employers should consider the same common factors when developing a policy.

·      First, may the organization’s employees engage in social media for personal reasons at work and, if so, are there any limits and how will the employer enforce such restrictions?

·      Second, given that an employee can tarnish an employer’s positive public reputation through social media activity, the employer should consider guidelines for employees’ use of social networking sites. Similarly, the policy should address whether an employee is permitted to identify himself as a representative of the organization when expressing his personal opinions about the company, and whether the employee should include a disclaimer in his personal blogs and posts that the opinions expressed are solely his own.

·      Third, given the liability that can result from an employee’s unscrupulous use of social media, the employer should remind employees of all other policies that may be implicated by one’s online activity, such as the anti-harassment policy, anti-discrimination policy and the confidentiality policy.

Underlying any social media rules for the office should be a policy about the employer’s intention to monitor employees’ use of electronic communications at work. If employees acknowledge that nothing they do on their work computers is private, the employer has likely already gone a long way toward nipping in the bud inappropriate use of social media at the office.

Lori Higuera, a director in Fennemore Craig’s Litigation Section, co-authored this article.

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What are your thoughts regarding this article?
Your comments won’t go unheard! (Or unread for that matter.)
The authors of this on-going social media series will be back monthly to answer any questions you may have and/or to continue the discussion. So let us know!

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Banning Social Media

Social Media Series: Prohibiting Employees’ Use Of Social Media At Work

This article is part of an on-going, social media series.


Because the law still is evolving, many employers are fearful of disciplining and terminating their employees for conduct on social networking sites. While this apprehension is understandable, it need not paralyze employers from protecting their legitimate business interests with an appropriate social networking policy.

Recently, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed an unfair labor practice charge against American Medical Response of Connecticut for terminating an employee who posted insulting personal remarks about her supervisor on her Facebook page.  Although the parties settled the charge before the hearing, the NLRB has made it clear that it intends to aggressively prosecute employers that discipline employees for this type of behavior. Because the NLRB’s authority reaches both unionized and non-unionized employers, the potential ramifications to employers is widespread.

While there is still plenty of gray area regarding what type of online behavior an employer can prohibit, there is certain employee conduct that employers can forbid in order to protect themselves against unscrupulous employee activity on social networking sites. There are common circumstances of an employee’s online activity that generally remain lawful grounds for discipline.

The clearest circumstance is an employee’s use of social media while on the clock. An employee who engages in online activity for personal reasons at work likely is failing to be productive for the employer, and such conduct may lead to discipline up to and including termination. If the employer intends to prohibit personal use of social media while an employee is on the job, the employer should: (1) implement and distribute a written policy that prohibits personal social networking while at work or while working; (2) ensure that it enforces this policy consistently with all employees so as to avoid claims of discrimination; and (3) have documentation to support the employer’s belief that the employee engaged in such misbehavior at work. If an employee’s job responsibilities require him to be online, the employer should consider appropriate measures, such as whether to block access to social media sites.

Another clear circumstance where an employer can discipline employees for their use of social media is when the employer’s confidential and proprietary information is disclosed through the employee’s social network, regardless of whether such online activity takes place outside of the office and outside of work hours.

So that the employee is clear about how he may, if at all, discuss work through social media, the employer should take some basic precautions: (1) have the employee execute an enforceable contract that prohibits the employee’s use of or disclosure of confidential and proprietary information; (2) require all similarly situated employees to execute the same contract; (3) enforce the breaches of such a contract consistently with all employees who have executed it so as to avoid claims of discrimination; and (4) have evidence to support the employer’s belief that the employee engaged in such misbehavior at work.

While there are clearly social networking activities that an employer can prohibit, it must be careful not to cross the line. Under the National Labor Relations Act, employees are entitled to engage in “protected concerted activities,” which include discussing the terms and conditions of their work between two or more employees. An overly broad social networking policy may violate the act if it interferes with employees’ right to engage in such protected activity.

Carrie Pixler, an associate with Fennemore Craig and a member of the firm’s Litigation Section, co-authored this story.

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What are your thoughts regarding this article?
Your comments won’t go unheard! (Or unread for that matter.)
The authors of this on-going social media series will be back monthly to answer any questions you may have and/or to continue the discussion. So let us know!

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Arizona Business Magazine's Editor-in-Chief Janet Perez

The Buzz on AZNow.Biz – September 13, 2010

It’s another jam-packed week at AZNow.Biz. Did you know that what you post on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter or MySpace could cost you a job offer? On Tuesday, AZNow.Biz talks to HR professionals and labor attorneys to find out what online information can or can’t hurt your career. Read this story and more, including food reviews and the latest from our expert columnists, all week at AZNow.Biz.

V icon, similar to Facebook icon

How Should Employers Respond To Social Media In The Workplace?

Virtual Networking:

According to some major news articles, the reign of e-mail as a primary tool for communication is coming to a close. This does not mean e-mail will no longer have a place in many people’s daily lives, but rather that its use will be minimized as new generations of communicators strive for instant feedback.

The Nielsen Company conducted a study that found that as of August, 276.9 million people used e-mail across the U.S. and other major countries. In contrast, the number of users on social networking sites was 301.5 million. What is staggering is that social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have only been in existence for about five years or less. What does this mean for employers?

Currently, there are three major responses by employers regarding employee (and their own) use of social media. The first response is to completely ignore social media and deal with issues if and when they arise. In fact, according to Russell Herder and Ethos Business Law, more than one in three businesses have no policies concerning the use of social media sites in the workplace. The second response is to completely ban social media and even block social media sites so there is no potential for use. As of July 2009, the American Management Association found that approximately 71 percent of IT departments are blocking users from social networking. The third response is to allow employee use of social media within a defined setting.

While trying to weigh how to respond and considering the potential risks, such as security issues and low productivity, it is important for employers to consider that studies show that, although 61 percent of all employees access their Facebook profile at work, this may be a phenomenon to embrace. It is no secret that the delineation between work time and home time has blurred with the use of laptops and cell phones.

In August, the University of Melbourne reported the results of a study that showed people who use the Internet for personal reasons at work are about 9 percent more productive than those who do not. One possible theory according to Brent Colker, the Melbourne study author, was that “short and unobtrusive breaks, such as a quick surf of the Internet, enables the mind to rest itself, leading to a higher total net concentration for a day’s work, and as a result, increased productivity.”

Given these dynamics, most employers will want to choose the third approach and opt for a social media policy that will provide active social media users in the workplace with defined parameters. Much like Internet-use policies, the employer will want to advise its employees on the proper professional etiquette of social media while protecting its own interests. To do this, the employer should be mindful to consider the following when drafting its policy:

  • Encourage employees to use good judgment: Don’t write anything you wouldn’t say in person.
  • Advise them on how to preserve confidentiality and intellectual property: Do not disclose customer or proprietary information.
  • Require employees to disclose any work-related blogging to their supervisor: An employee should use a disclaimer on his blog clarifying where he works and that the opinions and views expressed are not necessarily those of the employer.
  • Mandate that social media use not interfere with getting the job done and that computer use will be monitored appropriately: Always stay productive.
  • Provide a reminder or training regarding the ethics code of the business or given profession: Respect copyright and fair use and do not risk harassment, discrimination or defamation.
  • Encourage employees to be courteous social media community members: Pay heed to mutuality, authenticity and timeliness; these concepts have special meaning in the social media sphere.
  • Clarify the place of social media within the overall business goals and communication plan: Workplace social media use should follow the employer’s goals.

As employers venture into this brave new world, they should be mindful that any policy implemented should work consistently with any Internet-use policy or disciplinary policy already in place.In addition, some employers may need to consider drafting more than one policy — one for hourly and one for salaried employees due to wage hour laws. Also, employers should remain aware of other legal issues that may arise, such as free speech rights and potential litigation and discovery issues. As such, it is always prudent for employers to have legal counsel review such a policy before it is implemented.

Social Media

How To Get The Most Out Of Social Media

“Are you taking advantage of Web 2.0?” This question has been circulating throughout the business world regarding the online world of mass collaboration and consumer-generated content. Web 2.0 is redefining public relations, marketing, communications and branding for businesses worldwide.

Nielsen’s 2009 Global Faces and Networked Places report states that two-thirds of the world’s Internet population visits a social network or blogging site, and the sector accounts for 10 percent of all Internet time. “Consequently, the global media and advertising industries are faced with new challenges around the opportunities and risks this new consumer medium creates,” the report states.

Ken Reaser, a partner at Spin Six Strategic Marketing Design in Scottsdale, agrees. “People’s opinion is going to be out there,” he says. “You can attempt to influence it, but you can’t control it.”

Gabriel Shaoolian, founder of New York-based Blue Fountain Media, says social media can be tough to navigate at first, but once a company starts talking to its customers, “that dialogue is priceless. The persistent nature of online interaction means that (social media) has the long-lasting effects of traditional advertising, but the immediate interaction means it also has the revenue-driving power of traditional sales.” However, Shaoolian cautions that social media marketing is not for every business or marketer — but its impact is hard to ignore.

Businesses are all at some level of using social media networks, says Anthony Helmstetter, a partner at Spin Six. “Some are using it for reputation management, where social media is used as a function of customer service,” he explains. “However, 90 percent of the businesses out there will not stop using other marketing outlets.”

Forrester Research released its five-year forecast in July 2009, which states that spending on interactive marketing in the United States will reach almost $55 billion and represent 21 percent of all marketing spending by 2014. The report shows that social media spending alone will increase to $3.1 billion in 2014 from $716 million in 2009, representing a compound annual growth rate of 34 percent — the highest percentage gain in the marketing mix. This spending activity ranks social media as the third most prominent program behind search marketing and display advertising.

“Social media has its place, and we do find it to be a helpful tool, but only when it’s used correctly. … Be cautious with it.”

— Ken Reaser, partner at Spin Six Strategic Marketing Design in Scottsdale


The following is a look at the top social networking sites on the Web:

Link it Up: Optimizing LinkedIn for the Business Owner

LinkedIn helps people manage and make connections with other industry professionals, and expand beyond boundaries companies have been unable to reach. The site is relatively easy to use and provides a helpful breadth of information, as well as multiple ways to expand small businesses.

Mashable, an online social media guide, posted “How to Build Your Company’s Profile on LinkedIn” in August 2009. Adam Ostrow, a regular Mashable commentator, writes that LinkedIn separates itself from other social media networks with its company profiles. Company profiles allow a business owner to provide potential candidates with a lot more information about the company and the people who work there.

Here are Ostrow’s tips on how to set up a company profile:

  • Go to the “Companies” menu on LinkedIn. Select “Add Company.”
  • Enter the company’s basic information, such as a description, number of employees and industry in which it operates.
  • Follow LinkedIn’s wizard for creating your company profile, which allows you to add a logo, locations and feed for your company blog/newsletter.

LinkedIn will pull data about your company from around the Web site to further enhance the company profile that already has been established. For example, all of the company’s job listings will show up automatically on the profile, along with links to profiles for current, former, new hires and recent promotions regarding company employees.

Inovedia Marketing provides several tips for small business owners when utilizing LinkedIn, such as:

  • Connect with customers and vendors.
  • Improve a company’s image by requesting LinkedIn recommendations from happy customers.
  • Answer LinkedIn questions to build the company’s brand and promote it within the LinkedIn community.
  • Keep track of all contacts. You never know when you’ll need them.
  • Test a company’s ideas by joining marketing groups and utilize the “Start a Discussion” feature to act as a focus group.
  • Connect with fellow small business owners and find multiple small business resources.

All of this aggregate data about the company provides potential candidates information to determine if the company is a good fit for them. If a company is concerned about the information available online, LinkedIn does allow edits to the company’s basic profile information.

According to Ostrow’s post, LinkedIn recently added a premium product, Custom Company Profiles, that allows a business owner to add more features such as videos about the company, positions, interactive polls and several customized options for recruiting. Ostrow adds: “These are worth considering for larger companies (they come at a price), but for small businesses, a basic LinkedIn company profile should be enough to add lots of efficiency to the recruiting process — both for candidates and for you.”

www.linkedin.com

Face Off: Putting a Face to Your Business through Facebook

Facebook has become the largest player on the global social networking stage. In September, the company announced it had 300 million active users.

“Based on a simple design, broad demographic appeal and a focus on connecting, Facebook has become the most popular social network measured by Nielsen Online.” — Nielsen’s 2009 Global Faces and Networked Places report

Facebook started out as a service for university students, but now one-third of its global audience is aged 35-49 years, and one-quarter is over 50. In July 2009 alone, Facebook attracted 87.7 million unique visitors in the U.S., which was 14 percent higher than the previous month, according to comScore. In absolute terms, Facebook added about 10 million new visitors in July 2009 versus roughly 1 million new visitors for Twitter.

In August 2009, Facebook purchased FriendFeed for just under $50 million, which cost one-tenth as much as Twitter would have, had Facebook gone through with its plans to purchase the site.

So how can businesses capitalize on this growing social network empire? HubSpot, an inbound marketing system specifically for the Internet, published a report called “How to Use Facebook for Business.” The report outlines the difference between Facebook Profiles and Pages — the latter being specifically for business use.

  • Facebook Pages allow a company to designate multiple administrators to help manage the account.
  • Pages are by default made public and will start ranking in Facebook and public search results, and engines such as Google.
  • Pages are split into different categories to help the company get listed in more relevant search results.

For companies worried about privacy, Facebook is flexible in letting administrators control a business’ exposure. The creation of a Page is very similar to a user profile, except that you choose a category (i.e. brand or product) and a name for your Page (usually the company’s name). Once the creator is done setting up the Page, be sure to hit “Publish” to make it public.

Ken Reaser, a partner with Spin Six, strongly warns Facebook users to keep their personal profiles separate from their company pages. “You are now becoming a participant in a community where you no longer have control — be cautious,” he says.

There are various ways to promote company Facebook Pages, such as leveraging the viral nature of Facebook via the news feed, drawing on the administrator’s personal existing network, making the Page publicly searchable, and using Facebook Ads for an extra push, according to HubSpot.

Other areas Facebook excels at include:

  • Facebook Groups: Similar to Pages, but meant to be built around a group of people rather than an individual business or a brand.
  • Applications: Developers may write software to help promote a business on Facebook.
  • Polls: Marketers can use them to get quick answers about a particular feature, or find out information and opinions from specific demographics.
  • Facebook Connect: Helps integrate a company Web site with Facebook.
  • Facebook Ads: You can choose a specific demographic target, see how many people that demographic will hit and advertise to that demographic.

This point spotlights the biggest challenge for Facebook — turning its network into a revenue-producing mechanism. In 2008, Facebook earned around $300 million in ad revenue compared to MySpace’s estimated $1 billion. MySpace has primarily become an entertainment site. In September 2009, Facebook said it achieved positive cash flow for the first time since its founding six years ago.

Still, the fact that content supplied by the social network’s members is of a highly personal nature creates a Catch-22. The personal data is potentially one of the network’s most valuable assets, yet it provides a major obstacle in generating revenue as members see highly targeted ads as an invasion of privacy.

“If Facebook were a country, it would be the 8th most-populated in the world, just ahead of Japan.”

— Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, January 2009

www.facebook.com

A Birdie Told Me: Utilizing Twitter’s Real-Time Potential

The first reaction many people have to Twitter is bewilderment, which matches the reason for the name of the micro-blogging site.

“Twittering is the sound birds make when they communicate with each other — an apt description of the conversations held on Twitter,” says site co-founder Biz Stone on the Twitter 101 site. “Every day, millions of people use Twitter to create, discover and share ideas with others. Businesses can use the outlet to quickly share information with people interested in the company, gather real-time market intelligence and feedback, and build relationships with customers, partners and other people who care about the company.”

Evan Williams, Twitter’s CEO and co-founder, says that in the best cases, Twitter makes the public smarter, faster and more efficient. However, not everyone believes in the Twitter-hype.

Anthony Helmstetter, a partner at Spin Six Strategic Marketing Design, says Twitter, despite being hot right now, sees a less than 40 percent retention rate after someone has had an account for 30 days.

“What this shows is that this exuberant hype is short-lived,” Helmstetter explains. “What Twitter lacks is a ‘sticky’ component. There’s nothing to make people keep using it.”

He clarifies that Twitter is better for real-time information, but not to build legacy content. But that’s not stopping major brands across the nation from tuning into the world’s mind. Mashable’s commentator Ostrow reported in August 2009 that big brands are embracing social media, with Fortune 100 companies selecting Twitter as their choice of venue. According to recent study by the global public relations firm Burson-Marsteller:

  • Among Fortune 100 companies, 54 percent have a Twitter presence, 32 percent have a blog, and 29 percent have an active Facebook Page.
  • Of companies using only one of these tools, at least 76 percent of them choose Twitter.
  • Of the Fortune 100 companies on Twitter, 94 percent use it for news/announcements, 67 percent for customer service, and 57 percent for deals/promotions.
  • The average Fortune 100 Twitter account has 5,234 followers. The median is 674 followers.
  • Many companies are simply avoiding blogs and going directly to Twitter instead.

One of the most well-known brands on Twitter is Starbucks. According to the Twitter 101 Web site, Brad Nelson tweets on behalf of Starbucks Coffee, and says he “loves” the 140 character limits for tweets. He manages it through a third-party application called TweetDeck that allows him to group his followers and see everything at once, from DMs (direct messages) and replies to searches and trending topics.

What a company chooses to post about depends on its goals for using Twitter.

“Listen regularly for comments about your company, brand and products — and be prepared to address concerns, offer customer service and thank people for praise,” Twitter’s co-founders say. But most importantly, don’t spam people.

“There’s the idea that social media is free, but it’s not free,” Spin Six Partner Ken Reaser says.

He adds that businesses looking to go into social media, especially sites such as Twitter, need to be consulted as to why they want to get involved, what their goals and expectations are, what they want to get out of it, how much money they have budgeted for it and the cost to manage it.

www.twitter.com

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Social media

Social Networks On Internet Pose Challenges And Opportunities For Businesses

Instinct: Nearly every decision a person makes in his or her lifetime can in some way be tied to an instinctual reaction. One of the most primal of instincts is survival and the key to our evolutionary climb has been the instinct to live in groups or the herd mentality. The instinct is simple — survival in numbers is far easier than going it alone.

The herd is now electronic and in the form of social networking on the Internet. No matter what your interests, you can find a social networking site that will allow you to communicate with like-minded individuals anywhere in the world, at any time. Technology, specifically the Internet, has removed traditional boundaries (distance, time zones, etc.) that previously limited “global gathering,” and this medium has literally exploded. Now more than any other time in our history people are gathering together. While virtual through the Internet, individuals continue to benefit from the comfort, safety and strength that are found in the herd.

Industries and businesses have increasingly been trying to figure out how to leverage the massive amount of information and consumers that are available on these social networking sites. Perhaps the two most prominent and recognizable social networking sites are Facebook and MySpace. Each has a demographic that is very appealing to businesses of all types. However, the primary obstacle to further leveraging these sites’ business appeal to date is resistance from the users to advertising or any other type of interference in their “personal space.”

For many social networking site users, the site represents a place of control and solitude from their everyday lives. Social networking site participants literally go there to get away and spend time in an environment that is entirely in their control. Now business is trying to integrate into a domain that many view as private.

While there may be a belief that these individual pages in MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc., are personal and private, the reality is they are not. Multibillion-dollar entities such as Microsoft and News Corp. would not have taken positions in them if they did not see the potential for a substantial return on their investments. The question is not if business is going to try to leverage these sites — the question is how. Advertising has always been the most obvious and first application of business on social networking sites, but how to advertise has been a trial-and-error process. Pushing advertising on users has proved problematic for both MySpace and Facebook.

The next avenue that business pursued was market research. In November 2007, Facebook encountered outrage from its users after it published users’ purchases for friends to see. While there was an “opt out” option, most users did not see it until after the fact. This tactic represented a huge PR issue for Facebook. However, this marketing tactic is another, and perhaps the most viable, business option for organizations to leverage through the social networking sites. The amount of data that the sites capture can be gold. But the site owners have to be extremely careful with how and what information they are sharing outside of the site. First there are privacy concerns, but second, a site that does not listen to the concerns and needs of its user base is destined for failure. With the rate at which new sites are popping up, the landscape to attract users is dramatically more competitive than it was even two years ago.

So the question still remains — will social networking sites become a tool for business to increaseproductivity, start small businesses, and develop larger organizations through market research? Maybe, but probably not.

To quote Tom Davenport, who holds the President’s Chair in Information Technology and Management at Babson College in Massachusetts, and formerly lectured at Harvard University: “I see no evidence that students andyoung adults — the audience for which these tools were originally intended — want to use the tools to do their business.”

The fact that many users go to these sites for relaxation and enjoyment leads me and others to believe that the use of social networking sites for business, other than advertising and marketing, is severely limited and not likely to take off anytime soon.