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Tips for Creating a Social Media Policy

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Having a presence in social media used to offer organizations a competitive advantage. Today, it’s a standard business practice. Social media channels are used by job seekers to search for jobs, by employees to communicate in and out of the office, and by campus communities to share information and provide feedback.

In light of the prevalence of social media in the workplace, developing a comprehensive social media policy is an imperative for higher ed institutions. But what should that policy include, and how should it be framed in order to withstand scrutiny from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)?

In addition to being concise and readable, a strong social media policy should include:

  • The responsibilities of the employee regarding what they post, where they post it and the potential impact of an improper post. Public speech is not necessarily protected speech. For example, social media cannot be used to harass or bully other employees. Your policy should outline what types of speech are and are not protected.
  • Who can speak on behalf of the institution. This is particularly important when responding to negative comments and erroneous information posted by students, employees, the media or individuals not connected with the institution. Also be sure to include the need for employees to disclose their affiliation with the institution when they post about the institution.
  • Privacy protections. It’s important to be clear about information that cannot be disclosed for privacy reasons. Posting about other employees’ medical issues and sharing identifying information about employees such as Social Security numbers or dates of birth should top the list.
  • Employer confidentiality. Any restrictions regarding sharing of sensitive, nonpublic business information should mirror that of your institution’s confidentiality policy. Keep in mind that sharing information about compensation, working conditions and manager performance may be considered protected speech that cannot be restricted.
  • Productivity expectations. Prohibiting social media use during the workday may be unrealistic, but your policy should reinforce the need to limit such use and not let it interfere with meeting performance expectations.
  • Enforcement and discipline. How will the institution monitor compliance with the policy, how should abuse be reported, and what disciplinary measures will be taken?

Once your policy has been finalized, schedule annual reviews to ensure that it’s keeping pace with NLRB guidelines. And be sure to conduct training sessions for faculty and staff.

Resources
The NLRB has weighed in extensively on what constitutes protected speech in social media under the National Labor Relations Act. This fact sheet offers an overview and links to several board decisions related to social media.

In the recent CUPA-HR webinar “The Great Frontier: Expansion of Social Media Into the Higher Ed Workplace,” Jamie Tanner, human resources director at South Georgia State College, delved into these and other employer issues related to social media. The recording of the webinar is now available on the CUPA-HR website.

And last but not least, many institutions share their social media policies and manuals on their websites. Here are just a few:

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