Tips For Creating A Social Media Policy That Deals With Confidential & Proprietary Information

To post or not to post? With the prevalence of social media, employees would really benefit from having a policy that clearly identifies confidential and proprietary information in the workplace.

Posted by Katie Yahnke in on October 12th, 2017

Over time, employees become desensitized to the secret information of the company they work for.
Every business has confidential and proprietary information. Whether you run a mom and pop pizza shop or you’re the director of a top-secret investigative unit, there is sure to be particulars you’d like to keep from entering the public domain.

Over time, employees become desensitized to the secret information of the company they work for. It becomes second-nature to openly discuss the super secret dough recipe with your colleagues, for example.

Concerning social media activity and policy, HR expert Sharlyn Lauby notes that, “we want to make sure to heighten the awareness of employees about what’s confidential, what’s proprietary, and what can and cannot be shared in a public forum”.

Implementing social media use in the workplace can be intimidating. Our Social Media, Labor Law and the NLRB eBook is a detailed document to help you every step of the way.

Clarify Confidential Information

Creating an environment of awareness is important for not only social media policy, but for a healthy workplace.
According to Lauby, employers need to consistently communicate with employees. An ongoing discussion around public and private information is paramount to avoiding accidents and letting details slip through the cracks.

Creating an environment of awareness is important for not only social media policy, but for a healthy workplace.

Lauby recommends an effective technique she’s encountered before: using symbols to signify confidentiality. For example, a company will stamp the documents they want to be kept under wraps. Then, a quick glance would let employees know that the document, whatever it may be, is not to be openly discussed.

Lauby’s webinar, 10 Things to Include in Every Social Media Policy, is more than an hour of great tips like the stamping technique above.

In this sense, employees could take what they know about confidential information in the workplace and employ these same practices in their social media activities.

Source Your Social Media Posts

We all learned in school that you need to use citations when you borrow someone else’s content. Somewhere along the way, maybe during our move from offline to online, we seem to have forgotten the importance of giving sufficient attribution.

Respect information by giving credit where it's due.
You’ve already created an online presence and established social media account ownership, now you don’t want to undermine all of your hard work by blatantly ignoring proper social media etiquette.

Respect information by giving credit where it’s due. Sharing content is a good thing, it’s a great way to get engaged and get involved, but we need to be doing it the right way, says Lauby.

How to Deal With Confidential Information in Your Corporate Social Media Policy

What does it mean to respect information? In the short clip below, Lauby explains how to use your company’s social media policy to abide by privacy and fair use laws.

Scroll down for a transcribed version of the video.


Sharlyn Lauby:

This next point, number seven on respecting information, might be one of the reasons that you want to consider having some training programs associated with using social media.

Every business, regardless of what you do, has information that is confidential and proprietary.

And often, when we work around it every single day, we forget what’s confidential and proprietary.

We’re used to talking with our colleagues in the office, whether it’s about a client situation or a customer problem.

We want to make sure to heighten the awareness of employees about what’s confidential, what’s proprietary, and what can and cannot be shared in a public forum.

Something to consider as you’re putting together your social media strategy is how will you communicate that to other people?

And how will you let them know what is considered confidential and proprietary for your business and not something that should be shared out there?

I’ll give you a couple of examples that might help you in your conversation.

If you’re a business that cannot do certain transactions over the Internet, so for example, I know that it would be difficult, for example, to fix someone’s car over the Internet.

Your goal or strategy might not be to actually have a conversation with someone over social media, but to really have a strategy to say that we want to encourage people to pick up the phone and call because we can deal with them voice-to-voice versus dealing with them in writing.

Or, we need to get them to a dealership so that they can get their car fixed but we can’t really do that over the Internet.

So, if you have a business like that where you really are limited in the number of transactions you can have over the Internet, but you can have more interaction whether it’s voice-to-voice or in person, then figure out how you make your strategy such that you train employees to be respectful and get people to the place where they can get their problems resolved.

The second way is to figure out if there’s a way to identify confidential and proprietary information immediately around your office, so that individual’s know I cannot discuss this matter on social media, I can discuss it in the office though.

Another story.

I spoke to a CEO at one point in time who went on a client call and while they were on the client call they had some employees with them.

And after the client call was done, the meeting went very well, and an employee sent out a message saying “we just met with X-Y-Z company, had a really great call, I know we’re going to get the contract”.

Well the problem with that was, they hadn’t gotten the contract.

And, they needed to make sure that – now of course they’d broadcasted it all over the place – so the CEO actually had to call the company and profusely apologize.

Luckily, it didn’t hurt the relationship between the company and this potential client.

But, it prompted the CEO to say “how do I make sure in the future that people don’t make that particular mistake?”

So what they did is whenever they had conversations, they had a stamp in the office that they would stamp documents with that would tell people “yes, you can talk about this” or “no, you can’t talk about this”.

And it was an immediate flag for people to understand what was considered to be confidential and proprietary in their business.

On the next slide, this is also a great opportunity, when we’re talking about respecting information, to talk about attribution.

It’s important when you think about training employees or sharing with employees social media, that employees have an understanding about what is trademarked and copyrighted information.

YouTube, being one of the – I think it’s the second largest search engine in the world – on YouTube people want to share videos all the time, or people want to share images all the time that they see on the Internet.

It’s really important that employees give proper attribution to wherever they are getting this information from, whatever source they are getting this information from.

This is another topic that you might want to consider how you’re going to build this into your policy and how you’re going to train your employees to give proper attribution where it is necessary.

Same thing with quotes.

I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a quote that is not given proper attribution to the person who said it.

And these are all things we like to put out there to get people engaged and involved, but we need to make sure that we do it the right way.

Katie Yahnke
Katie Yahnke

Marketing Writer

Katie is the marketing writer at i-Sight. She writes on topics that range from fraud, corporate security and workplace investigations to corporate culture, ethics and compliance.

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