By Matthew Meaker
Partner, Andante Law Group of Daniel E. Garrison, PLLC
In the years to come, social media will play a larger and larger role in marketing. Studies like Nielsen’s State of the Media: The Social Online Report – Q3 2011, tell us that one-third of Americans’ time online is spent on social networking sites and/or reading blogs. However, there is also no denying the power of the medium and that, when used carelessly, it can be destructive in a matter of minutes. Just look at how quickly things fell apart for Anthony Weiner or Gilbert Gottfried.
Employees online may, in the excitement of what they are working on, disclose confidential information harmful to the business. Or they may come across a blog post attacking the company and, perhaps with the best of intentions, act outside their scope in responding to the attack and expose the company to liability. We cannot simply put our heads in the sand and bar the use of social media by our employees both during work hours and outside of work, so we must confront the legitimate concerns businesses have about the use of social media.
Start with a simple question – “What is your company’s culture?” How important is it for employees to be on social media sites and/or marketing your company? The best sorts of policies are not cookie cutter but start with a foundation of who and what you are now and where you want to be.
Once this is established, you should meet with your marketing consultant and your attorney to develop your plan. I urge companies to consider plans that have a healthy dose of common sense at their core. Most importantly, educate your employees. Social media is so pervasive in our world, that any sort of policy, without explanation, may seem old fashioned or out of touch with modern culture. Take time to explain to your employees the real risks and concerns about certain activities online and what your expectations are.
This article is intended for general information only. It should not be construed as legal advice with respect to any particular situation. Readers should not act upon information contained in this article without first consulting their lawyer.
Mr. Meaker provides legal representation regarding business disputes, with an emphasis on the construction and real estate industries. In recent years, Matt has been called upon to write and/or speak on the topic of social media and its legal impacts on business. Matt was recently named to Arizona Business Magazine’s Top Lawyer’s List in the area of Construction Litigation and the 2012 Super Lawyers Rising Star’s list in the area of Construction Litigation. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.