More and more businesses rely on social media to advertise their products and services. Many now use their employees to promote their businesses through their blogs, Twitter accounts, LinkedIn and on Facebook.
The pluses to this are great as it is essentially free advertising, having employees engage on another level with clients and to have employees more actively and directly involved in the promotion of the business. But beware: there are risks that go with the benefits.
1. Plus: Social Media can be inexpensive effective advertising
Employees are good ambassadors for promoting your business. They can give your business both personality and a human face.
Businesses have been using employees more and more as a means of promoting and advertising their products. They primarily do this through their personal social media accounts such as Facebook and LinkedIn. It has proven to have some great success and the benefits can be enormous. But you need to be aware of the potential problems with this.
2. Minus: Impact of social media personal accounts
For the benefits that businesses 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 causing reputational impact 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.
3. Problem: What happens when the employee leaves?
What do you do 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 and the correspondence on the employee’s personal social media account?
These social media accounts often contain business information and client contacts. This is an increasing area of litigation with it being more difficult as the regulations have not yet caught up.
In addition, there has been very little to no judicial commentary in Australia regarding the ownership of social media accounts. There has always been clear law that client lists belong to employers when their 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 how can businesses minimize their risk?
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” and ownership of content. This means employers specify that any social media used during hours of or in the course of employment is owned by the employer and indicate that social media accounts are given up or terminated when the employee leaves the business.
- Ensure all your employees are aware of company policy in relation to social media and that they are enforced within the company.
And keep up with the latest developments – they, like social media, are a moving feast!
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