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Posted on Monday, January 13, 2014

Is It Time to Pop the Hood and Update Your Social Media Policy?

You’ve sat down with your lawyer, put together a stellar social media policy for your business, and made sure that all your employees are aware of the rules. At this point, you might think that you’ve reached a safe harbor and can put the issue of social media to bed for the next few years. In reality, though, because people are continuing to find new and unexpected ways to make use of social media outlets, the law is constantly shifting and changing in response. If business owners and managers are not vigilant, they may find themselves with social media policies that are not only outdated, but ineffective and even dangerous.

Social media content can translate into serious value. The size of a company’s Twitter following or number of Facebook likes are considered to be markers of prestige as well as practical means for marketing companies’ products and services. Recent court decisions, however, are beginning to suggest that traditional social media policies may permit disgruntled former employees to walk away with all or part of the online capital that they have generated for their former employers. There is also a growing trend in content generator attempts to enforce their intellectual property rights against social media users. Employees’ innocent yet infringing posts could lead to demand letters or even the shutdown of a company’s social media accounts in the event of multiple infractions. And, as we have noted before on this blog, the federal government’s recent characterization of social media as the “digital water cooler” means that social media policies that were considered acceptable just a few years ago may no longer be enforceable.

To ensure that your company stays on the right side of the cutting edge, IT guru Todd Thibodeaux recommends that companies revisit their social media policies one or two times each year. “Waiting too long between policy evaluations can put your business at risk of missing a new trend, use, or vulnerability within the fast-paced social media world,” Thibodeaux cautions. “You might not make sweeping changes (or any at all) at each checkpoint. Nevertheless, it’s smart to make regular assessments a habit.” Considering periodic review of your companies’ social media policy is a sound idea.

Ryen Rasmus is an associate attorney for the Washington, DC regional business law firm Berenzweig Leonard, LLP. He can be reached at RRasmus@BerenzweigLaw.com.


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