Personal vs. Business Social Media: What can compliance manage?

Posted by Mikki Ware on November 1, 2017

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If the idea of bank employees posting to social media accounts – either business or personal – scares you, you’re not alone.  The American Bankers Association 2016 State of Social Media in Banking Survey found that 36% of banks do not allow client-facing employees to post to social media for business purposes, while over half – 58% - do not allow client-facing employees to post for business purposes on personal accounts.

There’s no doubt that employee advocacy is generally a good practice, but when it comes to social media, the risks can be challenging. Consider, for example, the situation with a Bank of America employee who posted coarse and inflammatory material on her personal Facebook page. People quickly learned where she worked, and the situation became a PR nightmare for the bank. There was a similar situation that plagued Regions Bank just 7 months earlier. When these incidents happen, it might seem like there are only two options: prohibit social media use, or monitor social media use.

Before considering either option, it’s important to know what you can reasonably control without infringing on employee rights. The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 was enacted to protect employee rights, and prohibit certain management practices that would harm the welfare of workers (NLRB.gov). When the NLRB began issuing decisions on social media cases in 2011, they applied sections 7 and 8 of the NLRA which states:

“Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (the Act) guarantees employees the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection," as well as the right "to refrain from any or all such activities."

Section 8(a)(1) of the Act makes it an unfair labor practice for an employer "to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in Section 7" of the Act.” (NLRB.gov)

What does this mean for bank social media use? According to Offit/Kurman, Attorney’s at Law, employers may not:

“Engage in conduct that retaliates against employees for discussing terms, conditions, and other matters concerning employment with other employees... Create rules that have the effect of chilling such conversations even if that is not the expressed intention... However, Overall, monitoring of social media may be ok if it involves employer’s equipment or is generally available to the public...However, employer needs very clearly delineated and extremely specific policies.  Moreover, anything that provides subjective assessment is scrutinized and usually found unlawful.”

Whether for business or personal use, bankers looking to control the risk of social media need only put a few processes in place to ensure the privacy of employees, while still protecting the banks interests:

  • Create a social media policy. Clearly state the banks policies regarding business and personal accounts, and whether social media use on bank issued equipment (laptops, phones, etc.) will be monitored.
  • Provide social media training. Most of the time, incidents happen due to lack of awareness about privacy settings, etc.
  • Allow business related social media profiles that are explicitly for business, and become the property of the bank once the employee leaves.
  • Use a tool that monitors these profiles, and send all posts through an approval process before publishing.

Social media for banks doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. The ABA survey showed that 49% of banks view social media as important to the bank, so the challenge is to manage it in a way that is beneficial both to the brand, and the employees.  

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