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The dangers your employees and social media pose to your business

25th June, 2013

In 2006, the Trades Union Congress described Facebook’s 3.5 million users as “HR accidents waiting to happen” and it is safe to say that the consequences of social media is never far from the news.

The dangers of social media have been highlighted again recently in the case of Sally Bercow, where an allegedly innocent retweet has led to her facing a libel trial. In the wake of Drummer Lee Rigby’s murder, arrests have also been made on suspicion of inciting racial or religious hatred after comments were posted on social media sites. Furthermore, 20 year-old Azhar Ahmed was convicted of similar offences in September 2012. As employees are now regularly blogging, tweeting and using LinkedIn, the distinction between their work and personal lives is becoming increasingly blurred and the importance of managing this relationship is more fundamental than ever.

There is no doubt that social media can play a positive role in developing your business and ensuring that your business’s image reaches the public domain. It can also be used as a tool to improve internal and external information sharing, be a useful aid in gaining information about recruitment and also serve as evidence where necessary in cases and for legal liabilities.

The most compelling argument for social media within businesses is using it to generate new clients, new contacts and new income streams for the business. These huge positives need to be safeguarded against the risks that exist.

However, as well as the many benefits that social media can bring, there are a number of risks where it is used incorrectly; the disclosure of confidential information, the potential for claims of discrimination or harassment, potential damage to your reputation and potential loss of business or business opportunities. Employers need to carefully weigh up the commercial benefits of social media against the dangers it can pose to their business; prevention and protection is key. One way in which these risks can be managed is through the implementation of and training for a relevant social media policy which sets out the obligations and responsibilities on your employees, along with the all important consequences of non-compliance.

Kent Police faced potential damage to their reputation when complaints were made about tweets written by their first and newly-appointed youth police and crime commissioner. The tweets, which were not vetted by Kent Police during the recruitment process, allegedly contained violent, racial and anti-gay comments, and ultimately resulted in the young commissioner’s resignation. This highlights the importance of your social media policy being in operation throughout recruitment.

 

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