Wow! How things have changed over the last few years. We as individuals and as business owners now have more ways to stick our foot in our mouth than ever before.
Not only do we have more public ways to mess up, but it appears to stay out in cyber world forever. I am so glad that for me personally the errors of my youth are just in some folks’ distant memory and not residing on a server somewhere.
With that said, every small business owner needs to think about a social media policy for themselves and their employees.
I have read social media policies of both large public institutions and large businesses. There were many similarities between the stated policies. Some of the “policies” are good for individuals as well as small business owners, and I wanted to share the common items that I think are relevant.
• Don’t put anything in social media that you wouldn’t say face to face in a phone call or want to see printed on the front page of your local (or national) newspaper.
Remember that you have no idea who will end up reading your comment.
• Do not misrepresent yourself or your company. Make sure people know who you are and what company you work for when you comment on an issue or give a review about a product or item.
This honesty is appreciated by the readers, and if you are misrepresenting yourself, it is easy for others to find out and let the readers of your information know of your “lack of integrity.”
• Remember that the Internet is “global.” So when you are blogging, remember that the person in Paris might not understand colloquialisms that are such favorites in the Deep South.
• Be respectful.
Even when you have a different opinion, you can be respectful of others while getting your point across. Also, be respectful of others’ time and don’t spam. It should go without saying that offensive words or comments should never leave your fingertips.
Respect company time and property. Employees should not spend time on personal social media while at work.
Employees should never share “nonpublic” financial information about their company online. As far as that goes, they shouldn’t share any legal information either.
• Employees should not share personal information regarding customers or other employees online.
• Photos, videos and music of a nonprofessional nature should not be posted on company-related sites.
• Employees should not share political endorsements and opinions when representing the company online.
The above comments are not meant to be “legal advice” regarding social media policy for your business.
These are just some common items that many businesses are addressing in their social media policy.
If you plan to put a policy in place, please consult with your attorney.
This area of law is in its infancy and evolving as we type.
Lynn Vos is area director of the University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center. Contact her at 912-651-3200.