As the number of news stories reporting the posting of ‘unfortunate’ messages on Twitter and Facebook increases all the time, a solicitor has urged companies to be careful when using social media, to avoid reputational damage to their own businesses – or to their clients.
Gemma Murphy, a solicitor at Lester Aldridge LLP, says that while there used to be a clear divide between an individual’s personal and business life, this line has become increasingly blurred due to the widespread use of social media sites.
Clients and recruitment consultancies routinely scan the web to source additional information about potential contractor hires, or companies they may be interested in doing business with. With the blurring between personal and business posts, a potential client may find tweets about anything from football to political opinions resting alongside business-related posts.
The recent case of Paris Brown, the UK’s first Youth Police and Crime Commissioner (aged just 17), shows that social media posts from the distant past can still cause embarrassment today – and could potentially lose you business.
At Company Bug, we would always recommend using separate social media accounts for business and pleasure – always. If you have posted messages you have since regretted, log in and delete them where possible. Pre-employment screening companies use sophisticated search tools when selecting potential candidates for contract work, so contractors in particular would be wise to examine their social media footprints.
Gemmy Murphy says that the main point business owners, and their employees, should note is that “they should not have any expectation of privacy once their comments are in a public forum.”
What to do if your company has employees
Murphy also provides some advice for employers on how to deal with the social media activities of their employees:
1. Let your employees know what you deem to be ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ in terms of social media use.
2. Introduce a social media policy which provides examples of what ‘unacceptable’ means, e.g. using Facebook during office hours, or how the reputation of the company could be compromised by inappropriate posts.
3. The company’s bullying and harassment policy should be updated to refer to social media abuse.
4. You should update your firm’s disciplinary and grievance procedures to explain how social media abuse will be dealt with in the workplace.