The Social Media Explosion – How do you manage it?

January 22, 2013


One of every five minutes online is spent using social media.  There are several business advantages to using social media, including building a positive brand image, increasing recognition and gaining customer insight.  Ultimately, social media enables businesses to reach large audiences at a very low cost – however, not without its share of potential risks.

While employees have a duty to act in good faith and uphold confidentiality – clauses which prevent them from dishonesty and harmful actions – employers risk damaging their reputation through an employee’s decision to post derogatory material(s).  Employers also risk breaching human rights and/or health legislation as they assume vicariously liability for the actions of their employees, where those acts are performed during the ‘course of employment’.

Employers can protect their businesses from the harmful risks of inappropriate Social Media usage in the workplace through the following responses:

  1. Correcting inaccurate information posted on social media forums.  Note that this is not always effective and ultimately does not remove the problematic content.
  2. Restricting employee use or content, including restricting rights to ‘represent’ the employer when using social media for personal purposes.
  3. Monitoring employee usage.  Note that this right is not unlimited as there may be a reasonable expectation of privacy.
  4. Imposing discipline for improper or unauthorized use.

To be proactive, employers must implement effective contracts and policies to protect themselves.   Effective contracts include confidentiality provisions prohibiting disclosure or use of specified information.  They include references to relevant policies governing communications, social media and protection of privacy, and they specify that breach can result in termination for cause.   Effective policies describe uses of social media that are permitted and those that are not, and state that even personal use of these media will be subject to scrutiny.  Finally, policies must be consistently enforced.

The Burke Group’s qualified human resources consultants provide the necessary guidance to ensure your policies and procedures are effective in mitigating potential risks as a result of inappropriate Social Media usage.