The business perils of social media
What do these three recent news headlines have in common?
‘Facebook stalker sacked over sick campaign against colleague’ , ‘Director quits after 24 hours following anti-Islam tweet’, ‘Profits crash after angry customer’s complaint goes viral’.
All three highlight what has become arguably the greatest risk to a firm’s reputation, that posed by social media. Whether it is an employee misusing official digital channels during working hours or posting an offensive tweet or picture after having a few too many drinks on a Friday night, the possibilities are endless and terrifying.
It is the 21st century curse and, in many ways, poses a whole new set of difficulties for companies. The challenges historically posed by traditional media, even when considerable, at least tended to be manageable and there was a tried and tested process for dealing with them.
For example, a TV interview for which a spokesman can be briefed beforehand and schooled on how to deal with difficult questions. Or when dealing with print journalists, a line can be agreed internally and key messages can be wheeled out at the appropriate moment.
But traditional media involves the selection of spokesmen or spokeswomen chosen by a firm because their expertise and experience makes them the best prepared to face the media.
In a world where the average person posts something online every single day, EVERY member of your staff is effectively a representative of your company, unwittingly or not.
Their every post online potentially exposes them to the judgment of millions of people and their status as an employee means that, if they abuse someone online or make a sick joke, customers and potential customers are very likely to associate their distaste with your brand.
Not only that but online activity can come back to haunt its originator many years after the original posts, possibly even before they joined their current employer.
Ah, people argue, but what someone posts or does in their own time is their own business.
Perhaps, but then again perhaps not. This is a grey area legally and likely to remain so for some time. However, in the vast majority of employment contracts, provision is made for employees to be dismissed for gross misconduct and being convicted of a criminal offence, whether committed in cyberspace or not, would certainly qualify.
How would your company’s reputation fare were one of your many employees, posting thousands of unfiltered and uncensored comments and pictures every day, to be exposed in the media?
Don’t run the risk, put a social media policy in place, educate your staff about what is expected of them and make it clear where the firm’s, and their own, legal responsibilities lie.
Prepare today and avoid seeing your company making the headlines of tomorrow.