3 companies discuss social media governance policies

Go Daddy, Delta Air Lines and Walgreens’ counsel talk social media tips and liability at SuperConference 2012

Given the furor last month when news that companies are asking prospective employees for their Facebook passwords made national headlines, it should come as little surprise that a panel of experts weighed in on how best to manage corporate social media policies on the second day of InsideCounsel’s 12th annual SuperConference.

A trio of corporate counsel—Kimberly Cilke, deputy general counsel of Go Daddy Operating Co.; E. Alan Arnold, assistant general counsel at Delta Air Lines Inc.; and Shannon Couffer, senior attorney, litigation and regulatory law at Walgreen Co.—talked to the audience about the rapidly evolving but ever-present and important topic of social media governance.

Cilke, who arrived at domain name registrar Go Daddy just prior to the social media explosion in early 2007, said that her legal department quickly realized that they needed to deal with the new online landscape, especially given how active and interested the tech company’s employees were in social media.

“We queried everyone who was using social media and developed a program to utilize social media for their products, and we realized that we needed a dedicated social media team,” she said. “But it took awhile to get everyone to recognize the need for a cohesive team.”

Eventually, Go Daddy developed an internal social media policy that has very specific guidelines for employees who are authorized to post on behalf of the domain name giant. However, before those employees are given free rein to engage the social media universe, they first must go through a training and certification program.

Cilke then shared with the audience a six-point list of potential suggestions for companies to follow when putting together social media policies:

  • Include a general disclaimer in social media policies to indicate Section 7 rights are not infringed.

“A general disclaimer alone is not sufficient,” Cilke said. “You need to include specific examples in your policy.”

  • Limit policy to communications about company products or services and anti-harassment guidelines
  • Exclude general information on wages, hours, terms and conditions of employment from the definition of “confidential” information
  • It’s OK to ban “maliciously false” communications where an employee learns information is false and intends to harm the company and co-workers
  • Indicate restrictions on use of company logos and trademarks
  • Consider separate social media policies for employees’ general use and for when they’re representing the company

Social media use also is important at Delta.

“One thing that makes social media so relevant to an airline is because each of our 13,000 daily flights is a unique customer experience,” Arnold told attendees.

Delta, which in January was rated the No. 1 most tech-friendly airline by PCWorld magazine, now receives immediate customer feedback from passengers on many of its WiFi-enabled flights. As a result of this real-time passenger response, the airline has customer service representatives who will occasionally engage those customers via social media to offer assistance.

Arnold said Delta also uses analytics tools to monitor what’s being said about both their brand and their competitors, and analyzes the data in an attempt to predict behavior and proactively manage its affairs.

Couffer agreed with her fellow panelists, noting that the company realized around the time of the social media explosion that it needed to expand from its traditional marketing model and reach out to more groups of people.

Being a pharmacy, Couffer said that Walgreens had an added issue to deal with when it came to monitoring its social media channels.

“We have a unique problem—if someone posts a complaint about a Walgreens product on a social media site, we have an obligation under the [Food and Drug Administration] guidelines to investigate the claim and make sure that the product isn’t harmful to our customers.”

Contributing Author

Contributing Author

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