No workplace social media policy? You’re risking your business reputation

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Bad employee behaviour on social media outside of work hours can be damaging to a business’ brand and reputation. Here’s why every business needs a workplace social media policy.

A couple of months ago I wrote on how it was essential for all workplaces to have a social media policy. A recent Fair Work Australia decision involving a Linfox employee, reinforces this point. The Fair Work Australia Commissioner saying it was “not sufficient” not to have a policy “in this current electronic age”. This decision is important as it emphasises the importance of good policy in the workplace and this is particularly essential with social media, which is blurring the lines between public and private information.

In an ever increasing online and mobile world, social media is an important tool for business. With the many opportunities that come with it, there are, however, also risks that need to be managed. Many employers though, have their heads buried in the sand and refuse to engage with social media for whatever reason. However, not understanding this space or refusing to engage with it is no longer a valid reason for ignoring it.

A key social media issue is the one involving employees and their personal use of social media platforms. Some may argue that this is irrelevant to businesses. However, if an individual posts comments about their employer on their personal social media platforms then this is relevant to the employer. There have been numerous examples of employees behaving badly online while discussing their employer. This type of negative behaviour can be damaging to a brand and reputation of a business.

Employers can’t control employees using social media platforms outside work hours. This is fine if nothing is written about the employer, however, guidelines are needed in respect to what employees can post when making personal comments about their employer on social media. A good social media policy can be extremely valuable in managing risks and providing guidelines to employees.

Further, any employee who publishes content about their employer on their personal social media platforms needs to remember that this information is public information. It is different to having a whinge with friends where only a handful of individuals will hear what you say. If online information is negative it can affect an employer’s reputation and therefore employees need to be careful what they post.

Once something is posted online it is there for all to see and if it goes ‘viral’ managing the risks are almost impossible as the damage can be done within minutes.

A good social media policy is tailored to the culture of the workplace. As the prevalence of social media use continues employers need to communicate to their employees what their expectations are in respect to social media. Without a social media policy businesses are leaving their reputation in the hands of others.