Does your firm have a social media policy? If so, do you know what it contains? When was the last time it got reviewed and updated? Are your employees even aware the policy exists?
A properly crafted social media policy will not only reduce risks, it can also be used as a tool to educate employees on the proper way to use social media to benefit the entire firm.
Social media policies can be short and simple as well as incredibly long and detailed. Here are a few tips to help you craft a social media policy for your firm that works.
Keep it simple. The best social media policies are those that are simple and easy to understand. If your policy contains a large amount of fine print or technical jargon, requirements or restrictions, the odds are that employees will not understand it and will either ignore it or refrain from using social media all together. Try to keep your policy to one page. This allows you to post it near the coffee machine or somewhere else where it can be easily seen and reinforced.
Make it positive. A common mistake most companies make is to craft their social media policy in negative terms. “Don’t do this” and “don’t do that.” This approach only increases the anxiety and fear your employees will have about using social media; and it most likely will result in diminished participation and effectiveness. Keep in mind that many people have an initial fear of social media and feel unsure about the right way to approach it. Employee advocacy of social media is an incredibly important component of crafting a successful social media strategy.
Reflect your culture: Craft a policy that reflects your company values and culture. Enlist your employees’ help in developing the policy. This is what IBM did. In the spring of 2005, IBM used a wiki to create a set of guidelines for all IBMers who wanted to blog. These guidelines aimed to provide helpful, practical advice to protect both IBM bloggers and IBM. In 2008 and again in 2010 IBM turned to employees to re-examine the guidelines in light of ever-evolving technologies and online social tools to ensure they remain current to the needs of employees and the company. These efforts have broadened the scope of the existing guidelines to include all forms of social computing. The IBM social media policy has thus evolved to directly reflect the values and culture of the firm’s employees.
Refer to other organizational policies in your social media policy. Don’t crowd the social media policy with too much information. Your company should already have organizational policies in place that should inform your social media policy. Things like employee conduct and confidentiality clauses should already be covered in your organizational policies and employee manuals. Stay focused on social media on your social media policy.
Keep it current. Social Media continues to evolve at high-speed. New networks and tools are continuously being introduced. With technology changing so rapidly, it is important to periodically review your policy to make sure it adapts as new tools and networks are introduced. I recommend reviewing your social media policy every six months to make sure it keeps us with the latest technology as well as how your organization is using social tools.
Run it by a lawyer. Whether it’s a lawyer at your firm who’s part of the marketing ecosystem or an outside legal expert, it is important that your policy gets reviewed before it becomes official. There are ABA guidelines and state ethics opinions to consider. Your social media policy should address issues such as: confidential information, attorney advertising, intellectual property, trade secrets, discrimination, retaliation, bullying and impersonating others.
So there you have it. Tips to get you started on crafting your firm’s social media policy. Don’t forget that having a social media policy alone isn’t enough. If you want your company succeeds with social technology, you also have to devote time and resources to employee training. See: A Social Media Strategy Checklist for Law Firms.
Updated and republished July 7, 2017.