Businesses have been increasingly using employees as a means of advertising their goods and services. They primarily do this through Social Media channels: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, company blogs, etc.
There are a lot of benefits to this, particularly for startups: low cost of advertising, ability to scale quickly, easier to directly interact and connect with clients, happier engaged employees.
But there are potential negatives and risks of using Social Media. We’re at the early stages and only just starting to see some of the downsides.
The Good: Promoting your business
Employees are excellent ambassadors for promoting your business and putting both a human face and personality to your company.
Businesses have been increasingly using employees as a means of advertising their goods and services. They primarily do this now through Facebook and LinkedIn, even personal or business blogs. It has proven to have great success and the benefits can be enormous. But then there is the bad …
The Bad: Personal social media accounts
For the benefits that employers are seeing with their employees promoting the company through their social media accounts and interacting with clients, there are also potential negatives:
- Time wasted on social media for non-work, non-productive activity.
- Inappropriate use of social media for personal negative comments such as defamation, harassment, etc.
- Potential reputational risk as well as other legal implications for the company.
Management of social media risks is becoming an increasingly critical area to maintain control over the numerous consequences that arise from the unrestricted and undefined use of social media by employees. But this is not the only major consideration that businesses have to deal with. It can get worse …
The Ugly: What happens when the employee leaves?
What happens if your employee who is leaving your company has LinkedIn, Twitter and other personal social media accounts which they use to communicate with clients? Who actually owns the account when there is client information on an employee’s personal account?
These social media accounts often contain business information and client contacts. It’s an increasingly litigious and difficult area which the regulations have not yet caught up with.
There has not yet been any judicial commentary in Australia regarding the ownership of social media accounts. It has always been clear that client lists belong to employers when employees leave the company but there is no clear direction of precedent cases either in Australia or other countries to follow.
It is now clearly under the microscope, with companies attempting to terminate employees for inappropriate comments about the company on social media but there has been no clear direction as yet and each has been determined on a case-by-case basis involving other external factors which sets no clear guidelines. So what do you do to minimize risk?
The Solution: Be proactive
Here is what businesses can do:
- Ensure you have a social media policy for work. Otherwise it’s difficult to show its use at work/during work hours (even excessive) as grounds for dismissal.
- The social media policy should define the scope of ‘acceptable use’. This means employers specify what is sanctioned social media use during work hours or in the course of employment.
- The social media policy should also define the ownership of content. This means employers specify that social media content is owned by the employer and indicate that social media accounts are given up or terminated when the employee leaves the business.
- Ensure all employees are aware of company policies in relation to social media and that they are enforced within the company.
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