Google is Forever: Does Your Company Have a Social Networking Policy?

By: Donna Ray Berkelhammer. This was posted Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

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The blogosphere is abuzz this week after a column by Seth Rogan, a well-known marketing consultant, entitled “Personal Branding in the Age of Google.” Seth explored the results of Googling three housekeeper job applicants:

The first search turned up a MySpace page. There was a picture of the applicant, drinking beer from a funnel. Under hobbies, the first entry was, “binge drinking.”

The second search turned up a personal blog (a good one, actually). The most recent entry said something like, “I am applying for some menial jobs that are below me, and I’m annoyed by it. I’ll certainly quit the minute I sell a few paintings.”

And the third? There were only six matches, and the sixth was from the local police department, indicating that the applicant had been arrested for shoplifting two years earlier.

Liz Strauss, a social networking marketing expert, mused on the potential dangers of out-of-context Twitter comments. Martin Zwilling of Start-up Professionals explored the wild-west atmosphere of such social networking sites as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.

We have subjected ourselves to a staggering loss of anonymity, and many of us may not truly understand how we appear online. Parents routinely search babysitters, nannies and teachers. Employers and college admissions officers search applicant profiles. And that doesn’t even account for other social media risks: trademark and copyright violations, defamation, invasion of privacy, and wrongful discrimination claims from employees fired for information they disclosed in social media.

I am active on several online communities, including Twitter and LinkedIn. And before I post anything, I take an extra second to consider whether I would want that comment on the front page of the New York Times, or what my boss or mother would think. Others sometimes forget that their off-hand comments can have significant repercussions.

As a business lawyer, I strongly urge every company to think about how it wants to use social media (Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn) as a business tool and to draft a very specific corporate policy outlining how employees should use corporate email, internet, and social media. Or your company may be trying to put the Tweet back in the bottle.

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  • We have been down here in Research Triangle Park for several years. We found the business climate between Virginia and North Carolina was very similar and many of the firm’s Virginia clients had legal issues in North Carolina as well.

    Posted by: Donna Ray Chmura | March 11th, 2009 at 11:13 am
  • Good thoughts all. I didn’t even realize that Sands Anderson had a NC office. I appreciate all the thoughts from you and others relating to this topic.

    Posted by: Christopher G. Hill | March 11th, 2009 at 7:31 am

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