Updates and advice for attorneys and law departments.

The Benefits and Risks of Internal Social Networks

Just as public social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have taken our personal lives by storm, internal social networks are becoming the highlight of the corporate world.  Corporations large and small are adding internal social media sites and encouraging employees to sign up, and many are reporting positive results.

Internal social networks offer a range of benefits – but they can also be a source of concerns.  Corporate legal departments that know both the benefits and risks position themselves to provide the right advice to companies with internal social media sites.

The Benefits of an Internal Social Network

Not only do many companies report a net benefit from creating internal social networking sites, but the specific benefits cited are multiplying quickly as well.  Here are a few of the “top” benefits:

  • Streamlining communication and project management,
  • Making knowledge accessible and searchable,
  • Spurring innovation by making ideas and information easy to access,
  • Creating better decision-making through instantaneous collaboration,
  • Improving corporate culture and team functions,
  • Improving employee satisfaction and retention.

Companies that see only the benefits, however, may jump aboard the internal social network trend before weighing the legal risks.  Doing so exposes the company to liability in ways that can be easily prevented with an understanding of the risks and the steps necessary to deter them.

Risks to Consider Before Implementing an Internal Social Network

Corporate legal departments that are asked to consider an internal social network proposal – or whose companies have already launched an internal social media site – do well to consider the following risks:

  •  “Sharing” may lead to inadvertent disclosures.  If the work of a particular group is proprietary or is not being shared with the rest of the company, it should not be discussed via the social network.  If the group uses the network, options for protecting subgroups from being read by other network members should be employed.
  • Employees may find others’ posts offensive or harassing.  Social media has an informal quality that tends to prompt users to post images and other information without critical thought.  This increases the chances that one employees’ post will be offensive or harassing to another employee.  Policies for the use of internal media should be thought out carefully to reduce this risk.

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