The Lion, the Dentist & the Power of Social Media

The Lion, the Dentist & the Power of Social Media

10 best practices fintech companies should follow when developing a social media policy

If you ever doubted the power of social media, this past month should have convinced you otherwise. Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer quickly found himself in social media hell after killing a famous lion during a hunting trip in Zimbabwe. After just a few days, he was forced to shut down his practice for a time. He even has his own hashtag now -- a constant stream of hate messages.

While hindsight is 20/20, there is an important lesson the fintech industry can learn from Palmer’s experience. Social media is no joke! In a world where Facebook and Twitter can make or break you – and with rapid speed – organizations of every kind must have a social media policy in place for its employees.

When developing a social media policy, fintech companies should first familiarize themselves with the National Labor Relations Board’s guidance, which requires employers to:

  • Clearly and specifically communicate organization, legal and regulatory rules to employees, executives, independent contractors and others working on behalf of the company;
  • Provide employees with a clear understanding of what constitutes appropriate, acceptable and lawful business behavior; and
  • Help employees demonstrate that the company is committed to operating a business environment in a straight-forward and NLRA-compliant manner.

Fintech companies must maintain compliance with NLRB’s rules, but there are additional best practices to consider that will further ensure a solid social media policy.

  1. Clearly state the policy’s goals

What is allowed? What is prohibited? This should be clear and concise with no room for interpretation. Avoid jargon and use plain English. Employees should not be left guessing.

  1. Include examples of prohibited conduct

Show employees exactly what you mean. Create a list of examples of unacceptable behavior and statements so employees easily understand the policy.

  1. Do not restrict employees from using social media

This not only impacts employee morale, but can also expose you to liability for violating employees’ rights. You must consider the legal ramifications, including the National Labor Relations Act, which was enacted primarily to protect employees’ rights to organize. Historically, employees organized in person or over the phone, but social media has changed that. Employees have the right to discuss work conditions with fellow employees, and that can now take place on Facebook, for example.

  1. Allow employees to disclose their employer on profiles

Similar to restricting social media in general, companies that restrict employees from disclosing their employer on their profiles may be violating employees’ rights, thus opening themselves up to legal consequences.

  1. Advise on company’s right to monitor them

If you choose to monitor employees’ online activity at work, your social media policy should make that clear.

  1. Be familiar with FFIEC’s guidance for your financial institution clients

It’s probably not a bad idea to familiarize yourself with the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council’s (FFIEC) risk management guidance for social media. After all, your clients should be following it, but aside from that, it actually has helpful guidelines related to governance structure, employee training, monitoring and reporting.

  1. Keep it broad

Social media constantly changes. If your policy specifies certain social media sites, like Facebook or Twitter, it’s likely it will be outdated soon.

  1. Include work and non-work implications

It’s wise to have a social media policy for personal activities integrated into your company policy. It needs to be clear what can and cannot be said about your company on your employees’ personal social media sites, such as trade secrets or highly-regulated material.

  1. Training is critical

Social media can be dangerous territory, as we’ve seen with Palmer’s crisis. It is critical that fintech companies provide sufficient training and education on cyber-safety as well as best practices for promoting the organization. This training should also be ongoing to account for new social media platforms as well as changes to regulatory guidelines.

  1. Consult with your attorney

Finally, fintech companies should work with their attorneys to ensure the policy doesn’t violate any labor laws. Your firm’s review shouldn’t take long, but consider how  a lawsuit has the potential to not only financially drain a company, but permanently tarnish its reputation.

Following these best practices as well as adhering to NLRB’s guidance will help ensure a stronger and clearer social media policy. Otherwise, you could end up like Palmer.

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