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NLRA and social media

Image courtesy NRLB,gov, read more about recent cases around the nation at


If you’re in leadership for a large organization, you may be bound by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), and you may be hearing about the growing concerns around the NLRA and social media.

The NLRA was enacted by Congress in 1935 because companies were growing by leaps and bounds. By the 1950s, about one-third of workers were part of a union. Today, about the same number of public-sector workers belong to a union, and their employers must abide by the NLRA. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) was created to enforce the stance of the NLRA, hear disputes, and ensure that employees and employers had a level playing field when it came to bargaining about wages, working conditions and benefits.

While the NLRA has been around for 80 years, only recently has the NLRB gotten involved in disputes involving social media. “Protected and concerted activity” is increasingly taking place over social media channels — that is, activities for which employees may not be penalized. This would include employees having group discussions over social media; criticizing or sharing concerns about compensation or safety issues through written word; and images or videos posted online. With or without a union, employees have a protected right to work together to improve working conditions without losing pay, benefits or being terminated for that activity.

For example, in 2008, Rain City Contractors, based in Lakewood, Washington, terminated five employees after they appeared in a YouTube video. The employees attempted to conceal their identities as they discussed their fears of working at a Superfund site, and the requirement to wear badges that identified them as qualified to work with hazardous materials when they were not. Within days they were fired, and in 2009 the NLRB brought suit against Rain City Contractors, who chose to settle the case and restore all back pay due to the employees.

In another case settled in early 2014, an employee of Hispanics United Buffalo, which provides low-cost services to clients, posted to her personal Facebook page about a co-worker who had criticized other employees for poor job performance. Several other employees responded to the post, defending their performance and sharing frustrations about working conditions, workload and other grievances. The employees were terminated for the Facebook communications, but were later awarded $58,000 in backpay when the NLRB found that the posts were protected and concerted activity under the NLRA.

In addition to harming their reputations, companies who don’t understand the NLRA’s role in social media will be forced to shell out for backpay and penalties. Additionally, they may  be required by the NLRB to update social media guidelines and provide training for leadership and staff.

Most organizations have wised up to creating social media guidelines, but they will need to be updated as settled board law is applied to new cases. Leadership at large organizations will also require ongoing training to understand what they can — and cannot — require of employees. Managers may not forbid employees from “friending” one another or communicating with each other through social media, and dictating topics to employees is muddy and dangerous.

If you have questions about your organization’s social media guidelines, or to be added to the advance release list for my forthcoming publication, “The Healthcare Executive’s Guide to Social Media,” which covers NLRA and HIPAA concerns relating to social media, email me at

Screen shot 2014-12-30 at 2.15.43 PM

I was recently invited to the Fox 10 studio to talk about 2015 tech trends, and what we can expect to see. In this clip, I explain that we probably won’t see anything surprisingly new, but we will see improvement in the quality and price of a lot of the apps and services we’re currently using.

2015 will be the year that convenience technology meets more approachable pricing, making technology more pervasive than ever. ABI research estimates that 30 billion devices will be connected to the Internet by 2020, so we’ll see rapid growth in the “Internet of things” starting this year.

It will be more commonplace to see HVAC, lighting and even sprinkler systems controlled through apps. We’ll also see a new wave of affordable but decent laptops under the $300 mark – they still won’t be ideal for heavy computing, but they will operate well for day to day school, office and personal use.

There will be more services for tracking your children, and for helping them learn to use communication tools responsibly. I really like the Filip phone, it’s a paired back phone watch for kids that only allows them to send and receive calls from 5 pre-approved cell numbers, it can also receive texts, and most importantly in case of an emergency it will call the primary account holder, begin recording audio of background noises and sends an update of your child’s location every 60 seconds. The second generation of the product has just been released and the price has gone down, too, so it’s a great time to introduce your kids to phone safety and etiquette.

Health monitoring like Fitbit and Jawbone are only becoming more popular. Again, we likely won’t see anything new in this category, but the software is going to get better, the monitoring wristbands will finally get more stylish, and these services are going to try to find new ways to remain relevant by integrating with other services and  your other devices.

Healthcare providers will be offering more “telemedicine” solutions, or basic healthcare services provided via web and phone, we’ll see more businesses adopting 3D printing solutions as the quality improves and the price goes down. We’ll also see more biometric security solutions, and “contactless” payment systems, through your phone or key fob for example, and will be considered more secure than traditional debit and credit cards (at least until fraudsters catch up with the technology, that is).

2015 is shaping up to be an exciting year for technology – as prices go down we can expect to see more and more technological solutions seamlessly integrated into our lives. That excites me, what do you think?


Social Media Community Manager University
begins January 20th

I hope the New Year is treating you well! We here at red balloon are excited about lots of new offerings for 2015, like our recently launched training calendar, which includes our new certification program, Social Media Community Manager University, and this month we are beginning a new 4 month session!

If you are you responsible for your company’s social media campaigns, or if you would like to learn the secrets to successfully managing social media for other companies, this this program is for you. Get more details and register here.

You will learn:

+ our proprietary workflow from developing social media content to managing the comments you’ll receive from your audience

+ how to develop a document to direct future content creation

+ how to utilize an editorial calendar to successfully manage all deadlines and details for each social media platform

+ time-saving automation techniques

You will have access to four live educational webinars (one per month starting mid-January), four “office hour” days (one per month starting at the end of January – take the webinar and then call, email or Skype a red balloon trainer during office hours for one-on-one help), our 35 page full color .pdf guide, ‘executive’s guide to social media’, all templates we teach from during the class, and a certificate of completion.

Create a huge return on your investment for 2015 by meeting your social media goals! Register now, seating is limited for quality assurance.

red balloon vision party

As December winds down I have been spending more time reflecting on the past year – I recently released my latest publication, the executive’s guide to social media, we launched our new certification program Social Media Community Manager University (the next program starts in January), significantly grew red balloon, introduced a new calendar of classes, and added a manager of Client Experience and staff trainer to our team.

How did we do it? Good question – I had the support of some amazing people, for which I am extremely appreciative. And of course, we had to have vision! Last January we had a terrific group of people get together to create their vision boards. The evening was full of support, creativity, goal setting… and wine.

Vision Boards are a tried-and-true technique for visualizing your goals – seeing them everyday reinforces the focus it takes to be successful in making your goals reality. I am a living testament to the power of vision boards- about 90% of my board created last January has come to fruition (hey, there are still a few days left to 2014, you never know!). So, we’re doing it again and I hope you’ll join us! Please register soon, this event does sell out.

Vision Board party
Ventura Grill private bar, 9261 E Via De Ventura in Scottsdale
January 29, 2015, 6:00pm-8:00pm

Registration includes instruction, materials, mingling, food, soft drinks, and your first adult beverage (cash bar available for additional drinks). Just bring photographs or personal mementos you might want to use.

Register here, $20 in advance, or $25 at the door.  Seating is limited, register today. Contact with questions.

I hope to see you at our vision board event in 2015!


In this post, I continue a series based on my latest publication, ‘the executive’s guide to social media’ – you can download a complimentary copy here.

What are some realistic expectations for our social media goals and outcomes? This is a common question from prospects and clients. One of the greatest challenges our clients face is understanding what kind of ROI to expect. Everyone hears about the anomaly of a guy that had overnight success on Twitter and then they think that’s the norm. I usually see one of two scenarios – the clients that are fuzzy on what social media can do when well executed, or, the clients that have very aggressive goals tied solely to financial gain.

Social media’s primary power is in developing relationships and long-term loyalty. Retention and referral rates, repeat business, overall value, and lifespan are consistently higher for customers actively participating in a company’s online community. Start off conservatively when setting initial goals and work your way to becoming more aggressive as you gain experience with your audience. If you’re just starting out, you are simply looking for slow burn, incremental growth – a net positive in followers and engagement month over month. As you get to know your audience and become more familiar with them, you will learn how you can alter your direction based on spending habits, trends, and personal behavior, as well as the content that they engage with most, and investing in ads to extend your reach.

Tip: When building your social media plan, start with one main objective. I often see clients try to achieve too many goals with their social media at one time. This will lead to a diluted message with mixed results. An example is optimizing all your social media to get traffic to your website if you have an ecommerce site. You can expect a better outcome and more growth if all the platforms you use are working in concert with quality content toward that one goal.

I know, you’re looking for hard numbers right? Every brand interacts with their audience differently, and it depends on if you have other strong platforms we can utilize for social media growth, like a strong email database for instance. It also make a difference if you’ve been relying on ads or slashing prices to attract your audience to this point. If you’re curious how much growth you should see in your particular scenario, email me and set up a complimentary 15 minute phone call at jennifer at red balloon inc dot com

Most aggressive social media plans create artificial “success” or growth, but those audiences don’t really care about your brand, they won’t engage with you and you won’t see many of the benefits of long-term loyalty come to fruition. Invest in a long-term social media plan and develop relationships. Start with a well-defined objective and build your plan around it. If you’d like more information on developing a strong social media strategy, email me or download my latest coplimentary publication ‘the executive’s guide to social media’.