Things to Consider When Developing Your Social Media Policy

Updated on August 4, 2012

By Anita M. Gavett, PHR

Social media can be a great business tool.  It can strengthen your company brand and be a great recruiting tool.  The internet and social media/networking have changed how people communicate and its growth will continue in our professional and personal lives.

Some Interesting Statistics on Social Media

  • Facebook:  901 million active users; 1 in 7.7 people worldwide have a Facebook account; 488 million mobile users; 3.2 billion Likes and Comments posted daily; hosts 125 billion friendships; 300 million photos are uploaded each day; Facebook has 3,539 full-time employees.
  • LinkedIn:  (Professional business social network) 150 million users; 2 members join every second; 4.2 billion professional oriented searches in 2011; 36th most visited website in the world; over 2,116 employees.
  • Twitter: over 465 million accounts; 175 million tweets per day; 1 million accounts added daily
  • YouTube: 3rd most visited website; 2 billion views per day; average user spends 900 seconds per day; over 289,000 videos uploaded per day.

These statistics came from the website.  Please visit the site for more interesting statistics on the use of Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ and other social media websites.  The list of sites and blogs is endless.

Although there are many advantages of incorporating social media into your business plan, there are risks associated with its use by employees.

Over the years I have advised my employers and clients to ensure that their employment policies are kept up to date and compliant with federal and state employment laws.  This is especially true when developing or updating your company or practice social media policy, particularly due to the increased amount of employee usage during and after work time and the increased National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) involvement with complaints related to employer disciplinary actions involving the use of social media.  Social media is on the NLRB’s radar big time.

With the recent economic climate contributing to the increased labor law complaints and high unemployment rates (8.2% nationally, according to the Department of Labor), attention to this topic now is especially paramount.  Couple those circumstances  with the ever increasing use of social media, plus the number of retaliation claims the department of labor manages, your practice could be in danger if it’s social media policy and practices are not compliant.  In addition, a well written and well communicated policy may help minimize the employee relations issues that arise from employee use of social networking tools.

Consider the Following When Developing your Social Media Policy

  • A well written policy will help protect your practice against liability and your employees’ safety.
  • Ensure that your policy includes language that states your practice will not discipline employees for exercising their  protected concerted activity.  Be sure not to restrict these activities which include employee discussions of wages and working conditions.  It is illegal and applies to all companies.
  • Will your policy ban any use of social media on company time?  Will you allow limited use?  If so, be clear on the limitations and disciplinary consequences.
  • You can prohibit employees from posting financial, confidential or proprietary information regarding your practice and patients.  However, the NLRB has strict guidelines as to what is considered confidential; ensure that you are familiar with them.
  • Your policy can include language prohibiting violations of your harassment, bullying, and discrimination policies as well as related violations of the law.
  • Treat electronic behavior as you would non-electronic behavior.
  • Review your current internet, email, cell/smart phone policies.
  • Ensure that all managers are well trained on your social media policy to aid them in managing employee performance.
  • Prior to rolling out or implementing your social media policy, be sure to have it reviewed by a human resources professional or labor law attorney.
  • To read more about the NLRB rules and guidelines for protected concerted activity, visit

I’m personally excited about the evolution of technology from social media to patient portals and see these tools as wonderful assets to practices and all organizations.  However, I am realistic and sometimes concerned about the negative implications, such as litigation and employee relations issues that can arise from its misuse.  Please be sure to review your policies and employment practices relating to technology and ensure that they are compliant.

Anita M. Gavett, PHR, is Lead Consultant with Virtual OfficeWare. She has over 15 years experience as a human resources generalist and leader in a variety of industries including HR consulting services, health care, construction and manufacturing, wholesale distribution, insurance, retail and communications. For more information, visit

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