COMPANIES with a significant number of employees using social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and MySpace should consider enforcing a memo on behaviour like the one Telstra has just implemented, according to the telecommunication giant’s general counsel, Will Irving.
Irving spoke to The New Lawyer following the release of a six-page memo for its employees outlining how they should behave on social networking sites.
Under the guidelines, which are backed by a threat of disciplinary action, employees Twittering, Facebooking and posting official Telstra business have to disclose who they are, and ensure they don’t give away confidential information.
The move comes after the recent controversy over a Telstra worker setting up a Twitter account in the name of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy.
Irving and his general counsel team at Telstra did not press the new guidelines on the larger company, he said, but they helped in a “minor way”. He said the policy should “help educate people and actually help new forms of networking to develop faster, where users get value from them”.
As reported this week by Smart Company, Nick Abrahams, Sydney chairman and partner at law firm Deacons said all businesses that allow employees to access social networking sites should have a policy in place.
A spokesperson from the firm told The New Lawyer that Deacons itself implemented a policy last year, when Facebook was becoming networking site de rigueur.
The policy was weighed up against blocking social networking sites at work altogether, but research conducted by the firm found that many candidates would not work for a company that banned it. The firm was convinced to put a policy in place, which states that only authorised spokespeople are allowed to mention the firm. “A common sense policy applies,” he said.
“Ours is nowhere near as sophisticated as what Telstra has done,” he said.
The move by Telstra is predicted to be the first to set guidelines specifically for employees’ use of such sites, with many still requiring employees to stick to broader guidelines on internet usage.
Irving said that each company is different, “but if they have significant number of employees using these mediums and there is the probability that the companies themselves will be the topic of discussion or tweets, etcetera, then it would make sense to consider whether a policy is needed”.
Irving said he expects companies in the public eye, or in the technology space to focus more on this than others.
The New Lawyer reported this week that an increasing number of law firms are using Twitter to contact clients in a more person and immediate way, with DLA Phillips Fox, Deacons, Tresscox Lawyers and Blake Dawson already with accounts.
On this new zeit geist around law firm Twittering, Irving said: “There is nothing wrong with the old adage about success being all about going where the client is, so long as the client is happy about it, why not?”
Additional reporting: Kate Gibbs