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Friday, 19 December 2014

The downside to social media

THERE have been many recent seminars, presentations and articles about how the modern phenomenon known as social media can bring benefits to your business.

Phil Collier
Phil Collier

However, how many business owners have taken the time to consider the potential damage that social media can do to their business?

For the uninitiated, the term social media refers to commonly used ‘social networking’ sites on the internet such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and even YouTube.

I do not need to echo the positive aspects of social media; there are many, and if used to its full potential, the marketing benefits for your business can be substantial.

Beware, though, this sword is double-edged.

As space is limited here, I will briefly mention two areas where the misuse of social media by staff is fraught with danger.

Firstly, imagine that an employee – particularly a disgruntled employee – while sitting at home one evening, posts negative messages on Facebook or Twitter about you or your business.

These messages are now in the public domain and can be read by anyone who is registered with these sites. Depending on the nature of the messages, this could be commercially detrimental and/or damage the reputation of your company.

Then there is the potential issue of bullying and harassment.

If one of your employees posts messages on a site such as Facebook that could in any way be deemed to be derogatory, offensive or defamatory towards a fellow employee, the company may, in certain circumstances, be held liable. Mind you, whether liable or not, the employer will have a potentially serious internal HR issue to contend with.

How do you prevent such situations?

The key is to ensure that you have a robust social media and networking policy in place that spells out very clearly what employees can and can’t do.

Furthermore, this should make clear that any employee who contravenes these rules may face serious disciplinary action, such as potential gross misconduct, under the company’s disciplinary procedure.

Without such a policy in place, you may well find it difficult to take or uphold any action against the offending employee.

The policy should stress that employees will have been considered to have contravened the rules whether the breach occurs in work time or in their own time.

In other words, inappropriate use of social media sites (as defined in the policy) can occur outside of the work place as well as on your business premises and can include messages posted on personal computers – not just those at work.

  • For further information and to develop a social media and networking policy to suit your business or for help with any employee issues, call Turnstone HR on 01229 615280 or email info@turnstonehr.com

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