Social Media and Employment LawCompanies focus on maximizing social media strategies to promote the business. This week’s transition between the Obama and Trump administration highlighted numerous social media issues that employers need to pay close attention to concerning business and employee social media issues.

Social Media Use – Two Presidential Approaches

President Barack Obama was the first President to use the @POTUS Twitter account. He also set aside using his personal Twitter account in favor of using the @POTUS account. In other words, President Obama made a clear distinction for promoting the administration’s message as compared to his personal messages.

In contrast, Mr. Trump stated he would continue to use his personal Twitter account and delegate the responsibility of the @POTUS account to his White House staff (for more information on this transition, click here) (here is a great resource for reviewing Mr. Trump’s statements, including his Twitter posts).

Social Media Recommendations for Employers

Similar to the issues playing out on the Presidential transition stage, businesses must consider how their business and employee social media accounts and promotion should be handled. Here are just a few points to consider:

  • Social Media Ownership: If the responsibility for managing a social media account is delegated to an employee other than the business owner, document this responsibility. The social media policy should specifically identify the names of the responsible employees as the only employees authorized to post on behalf of the company-owned social media platform.
  • Social Media Guidelines: Since company-owned social media accounts are a direct reflection of the company, it is pertinent that each business provides its delegated employees with a list of employer expectations to guide their use of the platform. Topics for consideration include addressing the role the social media site will play for the business, how frequently posts should be made, areas or topics that are “off limits” or require approval, desired content of the posts, and acceptability of sharing/retweeting posts. Also, a separate focus should be on non-company social media guidance. Employee use of social media may interfere with your company’s mission or business interests or the interest of your customers.
  • Employee Social Media Use: Just as posts made by an employee on the company-owned social media account reflect the company, some people may believe that business posts made by employees on their personal accounts reflect the company as well. Consider for example a recent Tweet from (then) President-Elect Trump advertising for L.L. Bean. Trump Ethics TweetThe Washington Post (by Danielle Paquette) reported this Tweet broke long-standing policies against the President from endorsing products and was largely frowned upon by ethics experts. The concern being using the power of the Nation’s highest office to advertise. Similarly, you may not want your company to be associated with a cause or group based on an employee’s social media post. So be specific when addressing your company’s social media expectations on posting business related content on a personal page.
  • Social Media and Noncompete Agreements. Parties may enter into noncompete agreements, which designate certain information is defined to be confidential or trade secret. But such agreements are not dispositive, especially with the proliferation of information available through social media tools such as LinkedIn and Twitter, which have further complicated the status of information as confidential or constituting an employer’s trade secrets.
  • Transitions and Exit Interviews: A business should have a social media transition. Whether an employee leaves the company or takes another position within your company, a game-plan should be in place for transferring social media responsibility. Minimally speaking, this should include addressing the turnover of all access credentials to any company owned/sponsored social media accounts. You’ll also want to update the social media passwords each time responsibility is transferred to a new employee.

Social media has become an inextricable component of the HR and employment law landscape. And as the presidential transition makes evident, having clear social media standards and regulations is critical for efficient use and transition.

For additional information on how best to manage your company’s social media accounts, contact attorney Jason Shinn. Mr. Shinn routinely works with companies and HR professionals to address employment law issues at the intersection of technology and the workplace, including social media law best practices.