• Have a clear vision of how your business is going to use social media and understand what you want to achieve with it – a blanket ban on the use of internet and social media at work may no longer be appropriate given the added benefits social media can deliver to businesses.
     
  • Check if your email and internet use or communications policy is currently 'fit for purpose' and reflects the vision you determine as detailed above – for example, does it:
    • address what, if any, social media use in the workplace is acceptable – this should include reference to use of the internet, smart phones, emails, blogs and tweets;
    • make it clear that the policy applies to the use of social media for both business and personal purposes, whether during office hours or otherwise, and regardless of whether the social media is accessed using the company's equipment or equipment belonging to the employees;
    • explain the extent to which and the circumstances under which social media usage will be monitored;
    • prohibit discrimination, harassment and bullying and the making of negative comments about the company or any of its customers, clients or employees;
    • say that staff may be required to remove internet postings which are deemed to constitute a breach of the policy;
    • make it clear that a breach of the policy may result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.
  • Review your disciplinary, bullying and harassment, and data protection policies to ensure that they 'dovetail' your social media policy – for example, does your disciplinary policy cite misuse of social media or the making of inappropriate remarks or adverse remarks about the company as examples of misconduct (or gross misconduct)?, does your bullying and harassment policy state that bullying and harassment through social media is not acceptable and may lead to disciplinary action? Does your data protection policy remind employees that they should never post personal information about a colleague online?
     
  • Ensure that your policies and procedures are clearly communicated and circulated to all employees. Ideally, you should explain to your employees why the careful use of social media is of such importance to the organisation and employees should be required to acknowledge receipt of the policies in writing.
     
  • Build in a specific reference to the social media policy as part of your induction process for all new starters.
     
  • Educate employees about the consequences of disclosing or misusing the company's confidential information or intellectual property in the social media context.
     
  • Ensure your staff contracts and any restrictive covenants or other post termination restrictions are compatible with your social media policies.
     
  • If you want to permit employees to use their own smartphones, tablets or other mobile devices for work, you should have a 'bring your own device policy' in place addressing such matters as what is acceptable use, information security, expectations of privacy, your right of access to the devices, and issues surrounding compatibility, technical support and responsibility for running costs.
     
  • If you are going to use social media as a recruitment tool be clear about when you will do so and what you will do with any information gleaned on applicants so as reduce the risk of inferences of discrimination being drawn if the candidate is subsequently not successful in their application.
     
  • If you are contemplating dismissal of an employee for inappropriate social media usage, avoid 'knee-jerk' reactions, make sure that you follow your own procedures and the statutory dismissal procedures and act reasonably in all of the circumstances of the case.