September 18, 2012
While work continues among social media companies to develop their business models and identify ideas for making money for their investors, your clients should have learned by now that social media in some form is here to stay and that means more work and responsibility for you.
Why? Well, because like any new technology the opportunities provided by social media are accompanied by a long and diverse menu of potential legal and business risks. Among other things, social media provides opportunities for employees to create legal troubles by engaging in activities that defame competitors and other individuals and/or lead to claims of discrimination when social media is used to post inappropriate comments about co-workers. Social media usage also raises issues relating to privacy rights and protection of intellectual property and federal and state regulators are increasing their surveillance of social media networks to spot deceptive or unfair trade practices.
What can you do? The first thing is acknowledging that social media is now a staple of the policies and procedures that you need to be ready to discuss with your clients at the very first meeting. Then, you need to have some basic tools available for your clients, starting with a template for a comprehensive, fair and reasonable social media policy that can be adapted to the role that social media is intended to play in your client’s business.
When drafting that policy you need to be tuned in to asking the right questions to be sure that you understand the expectations of management with respect to the involvement of executives, managers and employees in social media activities. You also need to be prepared to help your clients with training their personnel about what they can and cannot do in the social media environment, particularly those folks who will be serving as official spokespersons for the client.
In addition, you’ll need to help your clients with updating and maintaining a wide range of policies in other areas including document retention, disclosure requirements, use of information gathered from social media sites in making employment decisions and protection of trade secrets and other confidential information. Finally, if you’re helping your clients with acquisitions don’t forget to make sure that the target company’s social media activities are reviewed in the due diligence investigation since your client may be held financially responsible for social media missteps of the target that occurred before the acquisition was consummated.
To learn more, and access a comprehensive library of practice tools including samples of policies and procedures, use your WESTLAW subscription to access Business Transactions Solutions (“BTS”) and start with Chapter 100 (“Employment Law”).