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How to Craft a Social Media Policy for Your Small Business by Caron_Beesley, Community Moderator 

If your business interacts with consumers via email or on the web, then it’s likely that you have an online privacy policy that governs how you collect, use and store consumer information. But do you have policies or guidelines that govern how your business uses social media to engage and interact with your followers?

Social media opens up new avenues for communication and engagement with consumers, but it also brings with it an element of risk. For example, perhaps your employees have access to social media at work, or are posting on behalf of your business. How can you be sure they aren’t releasing confidential company information, slamming the competition, or breaking copyright by posting images or user-generated content without permission?

Blogging also falls under the social media umbrella and is one of the Internet’s biggest sources of copyright abuse. Blogging is also subject to certain product endorsement laws that you should be aware of.

Crafting a social media policy or code of conduct can help protect your business and your employees.  Here are some considerations you should bear in mind, plus some policies developed by other businesses that can help you craft yours.

Start With Your Employees

Do you allow employees to access social media in the workplace? The choice is yours, although the law does provide some guidance on just what you can restrict employees from doing. For example, last year the National Labor Relations Board ruled against employers who fired workers for complaining on social media sites about their workplace conditions during non-work hours, stating that these cases “…interfere with the rights of employees under the National Labor Relations Act, such as the right to discuss wages and working conditions with co-workers.”

It’s hard to avoid employees gaining access to social media in the workplace; smart phones or tablets provide anywhere access. However, it’s a good practice to develop a clear policy about which instances warrant access to social media during work hours and for work purposes, and if you intend to discipline employees who abuse your code of conduct.

If you choose to permit access to social media, be sure your social media policy guidelines outline your expectations with regard to sharing company confidential or proprietary information such as photos, videos, or documents.

Laws are changing constantly, so it’s a good idea to work with lawyer to ensure you are complying with federal, state and local laws as they pertain to social media and employment law.

Read more: http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/how-craft-social-media-policy-yo...

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