Compliance and Social Media: Policies Are Just the Beginning

How does your company manage its social media risks?

Posted by Joe Gerard in Ethics & Compliance, Human Resources on May 13th, 2011

Deal with inappropriate use of social media by employees can be a major headache for employers. Every company seems to have a different approach and opinion about social media and its role in the workplace. Some companies have blocked employee access to social media sites, while others have developed policies to cope with identified social media risks. Other companies are still scratching their heads trying to figure out what to do.

Social Media Compliance Survey

The Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics (SCCE) and the Health Care Compliance Association (HAAC) have teamed up to prepare a report about social media compliance. The “Social Media and Compliance Report 2011” is a timely one, as the issue of social media in the workplace has raised a lot of concerns. In the executive summary of the report, it states:

“More companies, although still a minority, now have policies for employee social media usage outside of work, and more companies have had to discipline employees for their activity online. At the same time, business has recognized that not all social media sites are the same, setting site-specific policies.”

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The report recognizes that the ways people use social media are rapidly evolving. More adults are signing up for sites like Facebook, while millennials who’ve been using social media sites for a good chunk of their lives are now entering the workplace. These changes make it difficult for employers and compliance departments to keep up with social media risks, as new ones are being uncovered all the time.

Report Findings

The SCCE and HCCA report uncovered some interesting findings in their social media compliance survey.

  • 1/3 of respondents reported that their organization has policies in place to address the usage of social media sites outside of work.
  • A lack of policy over social media doesn’t mean company has no policies at all.
  • The type of company – non or for-profit, impacts the likelihood of a social media policy.
  • Site-specific policies have been put in place by companies. Most of them give the green light to LinkedIn.
  • Employees are being disciplined for inappropriate social media used both at and away from the workplace.

Report Conclusions

Based on the findings of the report, it’s become clear that employers are aware that there are both opportunities and risks when it comes to social media. As more companies turn to social media as a marketing tool, it’s evident that social media can’t be cut from the workplace. In order to mitigate risks, controls such as policies, monitoring site use and reprimanding wrongdoers, need to be established and enforced. Some companies have coped with social media risks through training programs and information sessions for employees – training them on what types of information they are permitted to talk about (some corporate information is private) who is allowed to manage company social media accounts, avoid discussing contracts or business-related topics with fellow employees over social media sites and so on. Employees need to understand that they have a job to do and time cannot be wasted by sitting on social media sites.

The companies that encourage employees to use social media often request that employees include a statement on their social media profile or blog, similar to the following:

“The opinions and comments expressed on this blog (on my Twitter account, on my Facebook page, etc.) are those of my own and may not necessarily be that of my employer.”

Although the number of companies adopting social media policies continues to grow, employers need to improve monitoring programs in order to ensure employees remain compliant. Paper policies are important, but they are just the beginning.

Joe Gerard
Joe Gerard

CEO, i-Sight

Spend my days showing off the i-Sight investigative case management software and finding ways to help clients improve their investigations. Usually working with corporate security, HR & employee relations, compliance and legal teams.

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