Social media continues to become increasingly integrated into our daily lives, and its use in and out of the workplace has become a huge concern for compliance officers. The growing prevalence of social media has increased the risk of compliance violations occurring more broadly and quickly than ever before. The risks include disclosure of confidential information, libel, loss of Intellectual Property, harassment and many others. All organizations face the risks that social media can bring to a company, but many are in very different stages of establishing clearly defined social media guidelines and ensuring all employees understand the policies.
With the risks changing and growing every day, what are some steps companies can take to establish an effective social media compliance policy?
While these are some of the foundations for creating and communicating a corporate social media policy, these must be highly customized for each profession. For example, a worker in a factory may pose a very low risk to the company when they post information about when and where they are travelling. But, if an executive at an M&A firm makes similar travel updates, even if discussing travel outside of work, this can cause speculation about possible acquisitions and other business activities. Each industry and employee must understand the risks unique to them, and how they can be avoided.
No matter the size of the business or its industry, the most important aspect of a social media policy is making sure employees know that the company takes it seriously. While an employee might not take much notice of a mass email from the company’s legal department outlining policies, this same employee will likely take it much more seriously if the policy is communicated by their direct manager. Social media must be integrated into the company culture so employees not only understand what they should do and avoid, but also internalize these fundamentals to keep the best interest of the business in mind.
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Kirsten Liston joined SAI Global’s Advisory Services team after leading the Company’s content development department for two years, and now consults with clients to evaluate and draft Codes of Conduct and other policies, based on quantitative benchmarking against peer companies and evolving compliance and ethics standards and best practices. Ms. Liston has extensive subject matter experience in a wide variety of ethics and compliance topics, including industry-specific concerns in the healthcare, automotive, consumer products, and oil and gas businesses, as well as general corporate compliance areas, such as competition law, anti-bribery and anti-corruption legislation, and the like.
Ms. Liston is a magna cum laude graduate of Carleton College and a former journalist, writing for Minnesota Law & Politics and the Super Lawyers family of publications. Several of her articles have been published in Compliance & Ethics Magazine, Compliance & Ethics Professional, Compliance Week and Directors and Boards. Most recently, Focus, a publication of the North Florida Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel, published her co-authored article, “Ten Years After Enron: The Future and Effectiveness of Whistleblower Programs.”