Part Five: How to Create and Implement a Social Media Policy


Social media usage has revolutionized the way in which companies communicate with consumers. This Hartung Schroeder Practice Series is presented in five parts and provides practical guidance on the potential risks to a company attributable to the use of social media tools by the company and its employees. The Series explains:


A properly drafted and enforced policy on the use of social media by employees is an employer’s most effective tool in protecting itself against legal liability and harm to its reputation and goodwill from the use of social media. In most cases, a properly drafted policy pertaining to employee use of social media will assist an employer in protecting its interests and guiding employees on acceptable and unacceptable online behavior.

However, policies are not one-size-fits-all. They must be tailored to the culture, needs, and realities of your specific workplace.

Some elements to consider in creating and implementing a social media use policy include:

  • Stressing the ownership and ability to monitor the company’s computer systems and related equipment and explaining that no duty of privacy can be expected with the usage of these systems.
  • The company’s level of tolerance for personal use of social media.
  • Whether the company should permit or even require use of social media for marketing and business development.
  • How the company will handle employees who post arguably inappropriate, but not unlawful, posts such as illicit photos, profanity, or other potentially derogatory content.
  • How the company will comply with laws protecting employees’ rights to engage in lawful non-working time and off-duty conduct, but still ensure nothing damaging is posted online.
  • The company’s strategy to preserve good business relationships and promote a positive corporate image.
  • How the company will train employees once the policy is in place so they understand what is forbidden (for example, one person’s definition of “crude” may vary from another’s).
  • How the company will monitor compliance with and enforce the policy.
  • What the repercussions will be for violations.
  • Keeping the policy simple and reactive to ever-changing social media.

Use the policy to remind employees that public or workplace social media activity is not private and that the employer has the right to correct unproductive or harmful employee social media use as necessary. Include (in conjunction with related internet and email use policies) appropriate restrictions covering:

  • Employee use of company technology.
  • Employee use/misuse of company intellectual property assets, including confidential, proprietary, and privileged information.
  • Employee use/misuse of third-party intellectual property assets.
  • Protection of third-party privacy in the context of employees’ personal use.
  • Harassment of other employees.
  • Defamation and disparagement.

Train human resources management on appropriate and effective employee monitoring and enforcement of policies, restrictions, guidelines, and contract provisions, subject to compliance with employees’ privacy rights. However, do not impose unnecessary, impractical, or intrusive restrictions on employee use of social media. Disproportionate restrictions might undermine employee morale and invite non-compliance, without real benefit to the company in terms of protecting its property, reputation, or employees.