Step one in navigating this swamp, said New York attorney Fernando Pinguelo, is that just about every company has to set out a formal policy that specifies what’s appropriate when using company tools (computers, cellphones) and on company time (which could involve an employee’s use of a personal cellphone or netbook).
Importantly, too, adds Pinguelo is this question: is the company itself using social media in the course of doing business? Mounting numbers of companies are using Twitter to broadcast info on sales, for instance. But when the company uses social media, even if only in one department, the need for a broad, companywide policy setting out appropriate use arises.
One possible rule, suggests attorney Rothman, is never use public social media to communicate on matters of importance to the business without authorization. That means no posts that read, “Wow, all our customers took grumpy pills today. It’s a hair-puller morning.” And no posts means no posts, from anybody, unless approved.
Ritter warns that policy alone is not enough. “There needs to be consistent enforcement of it.”
This raises the question of capturing employee Twitter, Facebook, etc. steams? If it seems likely they would be pertinent in a possible e-discovery action, then, definitely, start capturing and storing. This practice, say the experts, is not very different from how companies responded to the spread of instant messaging a decade ago―as needed. Back then organizations began to store IMs because it just is better to save than to seem cavalier when and if legal actions arise.
The bottom line is to accept that social media adoption is happening very, very fast, said Ambwani. “Acknowledge internally that people are using the technology, then look at what you need to do to protect yourself against risk.”
As a busy freelance writer for more than 30 years, Rob McGarvey has written over 1500 articles for many of the nation’s leading publications―from Reader’s Digest to Playboy and from the NY Times to Harvard Business Review. McGarvey covers CEOs, business, high tech, human resources, real estate, and the energy sector. A particular specialty is advertorial sections for many top outlets including the New York Times, Crain’s New York, and Fortune Magazine.