Social Media Policies: Avoid These 4 Mistakes

Social media has gone from being a fun tool for young people to a necessary part of any business. We've got the four biggest mistakes people make with social media policies that can lead to trouble if you're not careful. The information provided here is for general information only and should not be used as legal advice.

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4 Big Mistakes People Make With Social Media Policies

  1. Thinking you don't need social media. Even if you don't want to talk about your company online, someone is going to. Create a social media policy that outlines what employees can and can't say about their work.
  2. Not minding employees' personal accounts. It's not just company accounts that can get you in trouble, so make sure your policy covers what is expected of employees regarding their personal social media use.
  3. Not training those who manage your accounts. To avoid any international incidents, make sure employees who post on company profiles are given proper training.
  4. Not being safe with the info. You might get hacked, so have a good password, and if someone abuses their access, find an attorney who can help you take legal action.

Can I Fire An Employee For Writing Negative Things About The Company On Social Media?

In most states, unless specified otherwise in an employment contract, all employment is presumed to be "at-will," which means you can terminate an employee at any time, for any reason. However, there are many exceptions to this rule. For instance, if an employee is asked to do something illegal and refuses, they cannot be fired for that. With respect to social media, it depends on what your policy is and what the laws are in your state, so do your research, and make sure your termination letter includes a legitimate reason for the termination and contains all the information the employee needs regarding benefits.

Is It Illegal For An Employer To Ask For My Social Media Information?

Many states do not yet have laws on the books as to whether or not an employer may ask for social media usernames or passwords as a condition for getting a job. These 26 states currently have laws that restrict what an employer can require regarding online accounts and electronic devices:

Tips For Writing A Strong Password

  1. Don't use a common word. Things like "Password" or a pet's name are easy to guess, and are the first things hackers will check for. Same goes for "123456" or "111111."
  2. Make it easy to remember. A string of complicated characters won't do you any good if you can't remember it, especially if you can't write it down because you don't trust people in the office not to steal it. A mnemonic device can help you create a password that has the necessary elements and is still easy to remember.
  3. Only use a password manager if you're not sharing. A password that even you don't know will be secure, but if more than one person has to use it, or if you use multiple computers, it won't be functional. They are a great idea for personal use, but probably not for your business.
  4. Make it long. It may not be a person who is trying to guess your password. The longer it is, the more time it will take to crack, so consider using a phrase instead of a single word.
  5. Change it often. Sitting down once a month to change all your passwords may be annoying, but it ensures that there isn't a former employee out there who still has access to all your information.

What Happens If I Get Hacked?

A lot depends on what information has been compromised. If it's just your social media accounts, you can get in touch with the website either to switch the password or shut it down entirely. If it's your computer that has been hacked, your personal information may be at risk. In that case, it may be a good idea to initiate a credit freeze and take the necessary steps to combat identity theft.

The Ways Scammers Target Victims

You may have an image of hackers as a group of hi-tech thieves in a dark room filled with computers, but advanced computing power isn't necessary in order to hack into your system. In fact, they're likely going to try to get the passwords directly from you by simply asking for them over the phone. Here are the most common methods of initial contact according to a 2017 FTC report.

Method of Initial Contact Percentage
Telephone 70%
Email 10%
Website 8%
Mail 5%
Other 7%

In Depth

Social media can be a great way for your company to connect with customers, but if you're not careful, it can also cause strife with employees and put your business at risk. These are the four biggest mistakes people make with social media policies that you need to watch out for.

Mistake #1: thinking you don't need social media. Perhaps your business is a bit old-fashioned, or you aren't consumer-facing, so you don't think you need to use social media for marketing. That may be true, but you still have to pay attention to it, because there may already be an account for your company.

Impostor social media accounts are very prevalent. Many times, someone will create a fake account posing as a recognizable person, then try to scam money out of people who think they're talking to the real deal. Chris Pratt, Chadwick Boseman, Amanda Bynes, and Parkland activist Emma Gonzalez have all had to deal with impostors posing as them and asking followers for money.

Chris Pratt, Chadwick Boseman, Amanda Bynes, and Parkland activist Emma Gonzalez have all had to deal with impostors posing as them and asking followers for money.

It got even worse for country singer Kip Moore. Someone claiming to be him chatted with women on Facebook and Instagram, even convincing some to leave their husbands in order to be with Moore, who only found out when they confronted him in real life.

It can happen for businesses too. A company called Kiva found a fake Instagram account that was insulting and harassing people online. If they'd never bothered to check, users might have just assumed it was their real account. You need to make an official account so an impostor doesn't take over, and pay attention to what's being said about your business.

If an employee is going to be running your accounts, you need a proper social media policy that dictates what should and should not be posted online. Refer to our full guide to social media policies, found right beneath this video.

If an employee is going to be running your accounts, you need a proper social media policy that dictates what should and should not be posted online.

Mistake #2: not minding employees' personal accounts. You may have total control over what your company account says, but you should also watch what your employees say about your business. There have been plenty of cases of employees getting fired, sometimes before their jobs actually begin, for Tweeting negatively about their companies.

If an employee's personal opinions could affect your business, the policy should make it clear what is expected of them. A sportswriter was fired for Tweets about politics which he considered to be his personal opinions, but that the company felt were damaging to its reputation. That kind of distinction needs to be made in advance to avoid legal trouble.

The rules regarding whether employees have to give you access to their social media and what they can be fired for differ in each state, so make sure your policy reflects the law accurately. Read our full guide to social media policies, available on this web page. Check it out beneath this video.

The rules regarding whether employees have to give you access to their social media and what they can be fired for differ in each state, so make sure your policy reflects the law accurately.

Mistake #3: not training those who manage your accounts. If you're not a social media whiz, you need a person to run your accounts for you, and that should be someone who knows what they are doing. Social media posts can be a way to trick people into getting hacked if they aren't careful.

Employees running an official account need to know what to do with it. A woman in Maryland was fired for joking with a student online about his spelling. And a Nebraska man working for Marriott lost his job for liking a Tweet that he didn't realize related to a serious political situation between China and Tibet.

We aren't lawyers, and this isn't legal advice, but employees probably can't be expected to know what will make someone angry in another nation unless they're told about it first. And mistakes like this can happen anywhere. Apple accidentally revealed the iPhone 7 on Twitter early because of carelessness about social media. If they can screw that up, imagine what you can do.

If they can screw that up, imagine what you can do.

Mistake #4: not being safe with the info. There is an incredibly long list of companies whose social media accounts have been hacked. HBO, Sony, Xbox, "The Financial Times," and many more large entities have had their accounts taken over.

If you hire an outside employee to manage your social media, make sure they're trustworthy and understand the security risks. You and all employees with the password need to be careful not to give it out, and it needs to be a strong password. And make sure you have access to the account yourself in case a bitter former employee wants revenge.

Should you get hacked, you might not know where to start if you're only somewhat computer literate. Find an attorney who specializes in this sort of thing so you can file a criminal complaint and sue for damages if need be, and make sure you have all the necessary info before making your policy. On this page, you will find our full guide to social media policies. Scroll below this video to read it.

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