This is a guest post by Amy Kelly of SociallyActive.com

As a business, when you think about social media, you probably focus on things like your corporate social accounts and how you use them for marketing purposes or customer service. Yet, an often overlooked part of most company’s social presence is their employee’s personal usage of social media and how that may in turn impact the perception of an organization.

Employees’ use of social media in the workplace, or even outside the workplace but in reference to their job (aka your company) is simply unavoidable. Let’s face it: it’s human nature to be social. It’s also natural to discuss our work in social settings. In most cases, an employee taking to the social airwaves is a good thing and their advocacy turns into free “word-of-mouth” marketing for your company. There are, however, a growing number of cases when employees’ personal actions have a negative effect on a company’s brand. Furthermore, if not handled properly, your company’s reaction to such events can damage your brand even further.

Community concept

Employees’ personal account usage is different than an official corporate or business account and your responsibilities and risks as an employer are different as well. As an employer, you must know what guidelines you can provide employees in order to foster a positive online presence for your company.

The intersection of social media and the workplace falls under The National Labor Relations Act, which states that:

Section 7: “Employees shall have the right to self- organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection . . .”

Section 8(a)(1): “It shall be an unfair labor practice for an employer to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in Section 7.”

Yes, this means that employees can use Facebook to discuss things like their wages. Additionally, employers may not:

  • Restrict non-commercial use of their company 
logo/trademarks

  • Require employees to secure permission from the employer before posting content to social media

  • Instruct employees to “think carefully about ‘friending’ co-workers”

  • Tell employees to use a “friendly tone” online

  • Suggest that employees try to resolve workplace problems by speaking in person (rather than online) with co-workers, supervisors, or managers

  • Broadly prohibit “disparaging or defamatory” comments

  • Prohibit social media use during “company time”  (you must have carve-out time for use during rest/meal breaks and other non-working hours)

However, as an employer, there are a few things that you can do to foster responsible social media usage. You may, for example:

  • Tell employees to use “appropriate business decorum” in online communications for business purposes

  • Prohibit employees from posting unauthorized statements in the name of the employer, as the policy or view of the employer, or in a manner that could reasonably be attributed to the employer.

  • Prohibit disclosure of attorney-client privileged information, trade secrets, or information that would violate financial disclosure laws

  • Prohibit violence, harassment, discrimination, etc.

Protecting your company’s brand assets online while building trust with your employees can often be a balancing act, particularly if you have a lot of employees. Some companies choose to actively monitor their employees’ personal social media accounts. However, at SociallyActive, we believe that this can easily lead to the impression that you are spying on them. Employees need their personal space and even if their social network accounts are public, we don’t recommend following them.

Rather, by using a product like Vivial, you can monitor for social mentions of your brand and be alerted if there’s a negative post somewhere. Whether these come from customers, competitors or employees; you’ll be empowered with the information you need to take the right action. Additionally, at SociallyActive.com, we’ve developed a suite of tools that let individuals and employees manage their own social network reputation responsibly.