Social Media and Everything Legal Presentation

Social Media and Everything Legal PresentationThese days, nearly every company utilizes social media in one form or another.  Even the local funeral home is vying for Facebook “likes.”

Although it is fun, social media is serious business.  Did you know that every “tweet” is curated at the Library of Congress?

Attorney Paul Rubell of Meltzer, Lippe, Goldstein & Breitstone gave an informative, comprehensive and fun presentation on the subject of Mitigating the Business Risks of Social Media at last week’s meeting of the Social Media Association. It was interesting to realize that the legal aspects of social media encompass both intentional and unwitting actions on the part of practitioners.

Social media is rapidly emerging as an effective means for businesses to engage their customers. Through the use of social media, customers can be made to feel and behave like part of a company’s brand and culture. However, Rubell pointed out that social media practitioners make mistakes because they do not always understand the implications of their social media actions.

This can happen with less experienced employees, who tweet about their activities while under the influence of alcohol, or even C-level executives. One example was the CFO of Francisco Holdings, who disclosed to the public through social media that they had great earnings. Not only was it inappropriate to disclose confidential information, it was a Sarbanes-Oxley violation. A tweet cost this executive his job!

There has been much talk about the value of companies checking out prospective employees by looking at their social media profiles. After all, those job applicants have chosen how to portray themselves in a public forum. Rubell recommends NOT doing this. It was fascinating to learn that things that are revealed through social media — including whether they have a health condition, their race, their sexual orientation — may provide an applicant that was not hired with the basis for a lawsuit…even if those factors had absolutely nothing to do with the company’s decision not to make a hire.

Rubell advised to have a written Best Practices policy for social media, as well as EPLI (employment practices liability) insurance. Many issues must be incorporated into social media policy. Who owns the twitter handle? The person responsible for tweeting on behalf of your organization or the corporate entity itself? If a Target executive “checks in” on Foursquare while in Bentonville AK, corporate headquarters for competitor Walmart, is competitive intelligence being compromised? Is there a policy in place? Here is an overview to keep in mind while creating a Social Media Policy:

  • Transparent — easy to understand
  • Non-discriminatory — apply uniformly
  • Accountability — behavior is regulated
  • Monitor & edit content — no surprises

As Rubell concluded, no single prototype policy can fit every company’s unique situation. A well written policy can only evolve through a dialogue between management and counsel, taking into account the ways in which the corporate social media sites are intended to be used, both within the company and by customers, “friends,” and “followers.”

Featured image courtesy of Stock.xchng.

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Wendy Weber

Wendy Weber is President of Crandall Associates, Inc., a national executive recruitment firm specializing in all facets of digital, direct and social media marketing. She got her start in direct marketing working in magazine circulation for such publications as Weight Watchers Magazine, Conde Nast Publications and Bon Appetit. Wendy has her M.B.A. from Pace University and a diploma in Direct Marketing from New York University. She is a frequent industry writer and speaker, and committed industry participant, having served on the Boards of FIT’s Direct Marketing Advisory Board, the DMA Long Island, the Social Media Association of Long Island, and the Association of Personnel Consultants of New York.

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