Last night I was chatting with an old high school friend on Facebook who I hadn't spoken to in years. With the expansion of social media we were able to reconnect. Although we've exchanged phone numbers, neither of us has made the call yet. Chatting online just seems more convenient and efficient.
Millions of people are now texting, tweeting, e-mailing and chatting, and it's not just the Gen X and Gen Yers. Facebook has reported that the fastest growing users are age 55 and up.
Thanks to this new generation of technology, we've advanced to an unprecedented level of communication and staying in touch has never been easier.
On the downside, this proliferation of media has resulted in a sort of communication chaos. Organizations are now faced with the task of monitoring the use of these vehicles in the workplace, including MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, LinkedIn, Skype and others. Control has become a hot issue.
As credit unions examine how to control this new form of communication they must first determine their stance, or philosophy, on social networking before they craft a policy. Will you allow employees to access social networking sites at the workplace? If so, what sites will be accessible, and how will you monitor personal and professional usage?
Keep in mind that there may be some positions in the credit union that have a legitimate business use for accessing these sites. HR staff, for example, may use social media sites as a forum to recruit or perform background checks on potential employees. Marketing staff may use these sites to promote your products, services and special promotions, as well as increase consumer awareness of credit unions.
Additionally, some employees may be involved in forums or listserves for personal and professional development. Yes, forums and listserves are considered social networks.
If your credit union chooses to embrace social media, you should do so fully aware of the legal ramifications of opening social networking sites, as well as the risks associated with the monitoring of activity on the Web.
The list of regulations that affect this area goes on and on. NCUA has advertising rules; the National Labor and Relations act protect discussions regarding wages; benefits and work assignments; the Federal Trade Commission has rules of truth in advertising; and the EEOC protects against discrimination and the information you can find on the Web.
After you've determined your philosophy, it's time to develop a policy. Remember, even if you do not allow access to sites from work computers you still should address social media in your policies. Keep in mind that a one size policy does not fit all. There are many sample policies out on the Web that can offer you direction, but it's important that you customize your own policy so that it fits your philosophy.
Some organizations have taken a very liberal stance when it comes to these policies and ask only that employees:
- Respect confidentiality, coworkers, customers, copyrights and trademarks.
- Be responsible for their postings, and do not behave any differently than they would in any other public setting.
- Identify that they are expressing their own opinion and not that of the organization.
Many credit unions are not quite as liberal as the example mentioned above. With increased regulatory scrutiny, it's recommended that credit unions consider incorporating the following in their social media policies:
- Instruct employees that all company computers are the property of the employer and that employees should have no expectation of privacy.
- Employees are not to advertise or sell credit union products and services via personal sites.
- Employees cannot use social sites to harass, threaten, libel or slander, defame or disparage or discriminate against coworkers, managers, members, vendors or any other person.
- Employees are not to discuss confidential work related matters.
- Employees who identify themselves as an employee of the credit union on a non credit union site need to state that the views expressed are their own and not of the credit union.
A word of caution. Make sure your policies do not go too far. The Associated Press's policy requires employees to delete certain things that their friends say on their Facebook page. "It is a good idea to monitor your profile page to make sure material posted by others does not violate AP standards; any such material should be deleted."
Unfortunately for AP, this policy caused a backlash from employees and readers. Their concern is that while you can control your own posts, you cannot control what others post.
Once you've identified your philosophy and created your policy, be sure and communicate this to your staff. Let them know it is not your plan to monitor their personal activities outside of the workplace. However, things posted on the Web are public and the credit union reserves the right to monitor comments and discussions.
Employees need to understand that what they say can reach many people in seconds. They can be held legally responsible for things that they say. Employees need to also realize that the things they post on the Internet can in fact jeopardize their job.
Training on the use of social media is essential, particularly for those in charge of the credit union's social media presence. You want to make sure that those that are the voice of your credit union know how to respond to questions and other issues that may arise on these sites.
Susan Looney is vice ?president at Credit Union Employment Resources. She can be reached at ?800- 442-5762 ext. 6431 or email@example.com