Millions of people use social media every day, but there are risks associated with it for individuals and businesses. This week, we have been publishing guidance from Cheltenham solicitors’ firm Willans. Here, it looks at social network site Facebook.
Facebook can help spread a company’s brand and propel a business into the forefront of existing and potential customers’ minds.
Indeed many companies encourage their employees to promote the business by “liking” its page.
Facebook can be used to change a company’s reputation for better or for worse.
Social networking outlets offer people an arena for venting their spleen on any issues, including gripes and grievances about work.
There is of course no “dislike” button (yet) on Facebook, but one wonders what reputational damage such a feature could cause.
Even posts that have nothing to do with work can create major trouble if they express extreme or unpopular views or racist comments.
Generally speaking employers have the right to control what employees do with the time and equipment they pay for.
However, when employees use their own computers to express their own opinions on their own time, an employer’s legal rights are more limited.
There are advantages of allowing employees to use Facebook for reasons such as PR, marketing and networking with professional contacts.
However companies should be concerned about the amount of time employees spend on Facebook and the type of information employees publish.
For example, some information could be detrimental for an employer, such as the disclosure of trade secrets, client details or raucous pictures from the Christmas party.
Employers should find the balance between the need to protect confidential business information and uphold their reputation, whilst respecting employees’ desire to use online media.
Here are some helpful social media tips for employers to consider:
l Have clear guidance on acceptable use of Facebook at work and the use of Facebook in a personal capacity where it links work, for example, making comments about the company or sending friend requests to client.
l Remind staff that they are expected not to behave in manner which would reflect poorly on the business and its reputation
l Link any social media policy to other relevant policies – for example, harassment and victimisation in relation to cyber bullying.
l Have a clear process to deal with inappropriate comments (whether from employees or clients) – avoid finding yourself in muddy waters concerning “banter”.
l In both a personal and professional capacity, it is good practice to think about the risks and opportunities posed by Facebook, and to regularly review content and accounts.
For a more detailed comment on these issues, join Social Media and the HR – the Legal Issues, a breakfast briefing being held by Willans on Tuesday at the National Star College in Ullenwood, Cheltenham, from 7.30am until 9am.
Call 01242 542916 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book a place