13 July 2015

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With the ever increasing use of Social Media in the workplace for both employers and employees, the enjoyment and advantages can quickly turn into disaster and disadvantages that could cause loss of income, reputation and credibility.

Below is an overview with brief reference to some generic legal regulations –

Permanent information  – with nearly one fifth of the world’s population using  Facebook, 500 million Tweets sent every day and 200 countries utilising LinkedIn, an instant phrase or picture can reach an unimaginable amount of people so do make it worthwhile and interesting don’t write or send anything you are likely to regret that could misrepresent you or the company you work for; remember, once on the internet always on the internet  

Corporate use – from a FTSE 100 company to the local corner convenience shop most businesses have some kind of interaction on social media, whether they like it or not! So don’t bury your head, do embrace the modernity of this alchemy and start pages and platforms to complement an existing website perhaps (?) recognising that this will introduce you to new markets and potential customers.

Employees use – as there isn’t a specific regulation covering social media, when employing or being employed, existing employment and data protection laws apply. Gone are the days where an applicant for a new job hasn’t already been researched prior to an interview and this can seem slightly unfair; we are allowed a private life after all! However, you can still control how much can be seen (see the Privacy section) so avoid that PC, phone or tablet after a night out!!! Guidance on use during working hours is down to the individual employer so don’t be misled by freedom of expression, if your job description doesn’t include researching social media then your updates can wait until lunchtime. Then again do feel inclined to endorse your employer and customers via their sites as this can send a positive and powerful message.

Ownership of accounts – there have been some interesting circulated stories about the fine line between access to and ownership of corporate social media accounts. For example when HMV were becoming insolvent the social media planner used the company’s Twitter account to provide real-time updates on the dismissal of its staff, in addition when a BBC journalist joined ITV she adjusted her Twitter handle to emphasise the move, her old employers had to recognise that her 60,000 followers chose to follow her and not the channel she worked with.

As most businesses utilise social media platforms don’t allow passwords to be held by just one person, therefore giving them sole control of content, and do respect that whether employer or employee posts should still be truthful and considerate.

Privacy  – in 1890 an American article was written on ‘The Right to Privacy’ and within it discussed the prospect that ‘numerous mechanical devices’ and ‘instantaneous photographs’ would change the world where comments ‘whispered in closets would be proclaimed from the house-tops’. Fortunately over the last 125 years laws have progressed to protect privacy across the globe, however, we now live in an age where technology is constantly updating to the point where data protection regulations could get left behind. With this mind don’t use customer or employee information without their permission as this does contravene the Data Protection Act 1998 and do remain transparent at all times about how you use individual’s information. In addition all businesses are required to keep personal information secure as part of the aforementioned act and of course we all have responsibility for our own privacy settings to be utilised on personal platforms.

A final thought, if you want people to see the contents of your cupboards you need to invite them into your house and if they’re uninvited you didn’t secure your doors and windows properly.

Suzanne Willett, Enterprise Coach, Nwes

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