Social media is now part of the modern digital world and it’s important to have training or look into some sort of cyber liability insurance for your business. Experts have made it clear that employees should be careful about what they post on social media and try a create a line between personal and professional as it can now be one of the biggest risks for companies.
Single social media posts have been able to end jobs for many people at a range of international companies. One famous case was Justine Sacco, a senior director of corporate communications at IAC. She tweeted to her small follower base before her flight to South Africa: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” Sacco was fired for “hateful statements” soon after and has reportedly struggled to find work since.
“Whenever an individual discloses their place of employment on their social media accounts, such as listing it on their Facebook profile, there is a risk that any negative or controversial online behaviour of the individual could negatively impact the employer organisation’s brand,” says Kate Potter, digital media specialist at Hughes PR.
Douglas White, founder and chief executive of social media strategy company PRDA, says the digital age has inflamed the risk from staff.
“It is only in the digital age have employees gained power beyond the boundaries of an organisation in a more significant and, possibly, longer lasting concern,” White says.
One important part of understanding the the risks that employees pose is knowing which types of posts are more likely to be damaging.
“There is more tolerance around social media posts that use offensive language, but less tolerance around posts that discriminate, threaten or make ‘jokes’ about minority groups,” Potter says.
Pownall says the degree of damage depends on factors such as the nature of the post, the resonance of the topic, the credibility of the employee, whether the post is seen as accidental or deliberate, and the visibility and reputation of the company.
“It can be particularly damaging if it is seen to involve confidential or highly sensitive information, racist, sexist or discriminatory comments, the harassment or smearing of colleagues, customers or competitors, or which point to corporate hypocrisy or double standards – all of which will quickly attract negative coverage and can result in legal action, financial penalties, or lost sales,” he says.
One way of mitigating these risks is through contractual obligations not to disclose proprietary information.
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