If you want to stay on the cutting edge of social media, just ask your kids.  The latest obsession in my household is Vine.  If you haven’t heard of it yet, don’t worry.  You will.

Vine is essentially video Twitter.  Users make 6 second videos that are uploaded for mass consumption quickly and easily.  The videos play in endless loops that have the potential to induce insanity.  And as an employer, the potential hazards of Vine are likely to take the definition of insanity to a whole new level.

Let’s begin with a brief informative tutorial: Vine is an app that you must upload to your smart phone.  Like Twitter, you have a home that houses your videos.  You can also follow others on Vine, and like Twitter, their posts will appear on your profile page.  To record a video, just hold your finger on the screen or lift it up to stop recording.  Once you’re satisfied with your product, you have the option to place a caption on your video.  Hashtags are encouraged.  Don’t forget to identify your location.  Then, it’s ready for viewing, viewer comments, and re-vining (sharing). 

Nervous yet?

The first set of concerns about Vine for employers involves viewing issues.  Procrastination in six second bursts is still procrastination.  Because Vine is quick and addicting, your employees’ productivity could be impacted by viewing Vines.  Vine does not have a website (yet), so all of the action is taking place on the phone.  Many employers do not provide their employees with phones, so policies on the use of employer equipment and discipline for misuse of that equipment aren’t going to cover Vine use.

Thankfully, other policies may (should) cover the issues raised by employees spending time at work viewing Vines.  Your anti-harassment policy may prohibit the viewing of Vines that constitute harassment on the basis of protected status.  Your policies on working time and personal phone use may also capture Vine use issues.  You should probably review these policies to ensure that they are broad enough to cover this latest, greatest social media platform.

The second set of concerns for employers is much bigger, and involves creation.  How much damage can an employee do creating a Vine in six seconds while at work?  Get comfortable.  Policing Vine use is difficult due to the brevity of the action, but in six seconds, employees could display classified documents, rant about their job, co-workers, or customers, harass and discriminate, and breach the privacy of others. 

Vine may also present safety concerns.  There are posts of employees operating heavy equipment at work.  Six seconds is plenty of time for an accident to occur.  As if accidents and injuries aren’t enough of an employer concern, now they may be preserved on video.  The worst part of all this is that your employees can do everything I mentioned while identifying their location as your workplace.  This is why it’s vital to make sure that your policies covering these concerns are broad enough to encompass Vine misbehavior. 

On the bright side, there are other uses for Vine, and not all of them are bad for employers.  Vine is being used successfully for marketing and advertising purposes.  It can allow an employer to showcase a new product, highlight a recent success, or promote a brand.  Vine is also being used to humanize a business with its constituencies.  You can conduct attention-grabbing tours of your facility, engage your followers in discussions about shared interests, promote contests, and share the culture and history of your business. 

Better still, Vine can be used to make boring business events more interesting.  You can engage your new employees by using Vine to introduce them to your business and their co-workers during orientation.  You can add life to presentations by including Vine clips.  You can pass company information along to your employees using this entertaining format to get their attention and ensure that the information communicated is being heard.

Vine was released in January 2013, and like most vines, it’s going to grow.  Being aware that it exists is the first step to controlling its impact on your workplace, both good and bad.

If you like this piece, don’t miss Vanessa’s Views, our regular column feature at Employment Essentials, where Vanessa’s unique and witty take on employment law will always keep you coming back for more.  Vanessa’s Views can be found here.


Vanessa Towarnicky's primary focus is in the area of labor and employment law. She has been involved in representing clients in various employment cases, including sexual harassment; deliberate intent; age, race, and disability discrimination; wrongful discharge; and various other employment-related torts. She is admitted to various state and federal courts as well as the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
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