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Legal Guidelines for Developing Social Media Policies and Governance Models

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Robert McHale explains how a well-drafted and consistently enforced social media policy, together with ongoing employee training, is perhaps the greatest protection an employer can have to avoid liability from the use of social media.
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With the rapid business adoption of social media, a growing need exists for companies to establish corporate social media policies and governance models to guide and monitor employee and corporate social media activity.

Businesses must tailor policies and programs not only to serve their unique strategic goals, but also to comply with the laws governing corporate and employee business use and monitoring of social networking activity. Businesses should have a general understanding of the laws and regulations implicated in the social media space so that their policies are not written overly broad and their governance does not overstep legal boundaries. These potential legal pitfalls are only increasing as we observe the adoption of social media for an expanding number of business applications which include not only marketing, public relations, and sales, but also research and development, product design, customer service, human resources, and others.

Developing a corporate social media policy, regardless of your company’s size, makes good business and legal sense. In addition to minimizing a company’s legal exposure, a social media policy also serves as an internal branding and communications guideline and empowers team members with the information they need in order to comfortably (and responsibly) use social media.

A social media policy should serve to protect the considerable investment companies make in their brand and reputation, while promoting its online presence in a legally compliant way. A well-drafted and consistently enforced social media policy (see below Figure), together with ongoing employee training, is perhaps the greatest protection an employer can have to avoid liability from the use of social media.

Figure 1, continued Click to enlarge

The contents of this article are derived from Chapter 11: Legal Guidelines for Developing Social Media Policies and Governance Models, from Navigating Social Media Legal Risks: Safeguarding Your Business. The article is also part of a series in which author and attorney, Robert McHale, provides practical Social Media Dos and Don'ts for companies to consider when using social media for business.

Robert McHale, Esq. is the founding partner of R | McHale Law, a full-service law firm whose corporate practice represents clients on a wide variety of IT and intellectual property law matters, including privacy and data security, copyright, trademark, licensing, and other proprietary protections. He may be contacted at: robert.mchale@rmchale.com.

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