Many organisations worry that social media channels are not subject to monitoring or controls and consequently refrain from adopting them in the workplace for fear that the lack of censorship might lead to embarrassment and damage to their brand and reputation. 

Multiple incidents involving the misuse of social media have received significant adverse attention over the past year, however most recently Apple has demonstrated that with the correct policies in place, social media is not beyond the law.

Gross misconduct

An employee tribunal has concluded that Apple was correct to dismiss an employee for gross misconduct after he posted negative comments about the brand and its products on his Facebook wall.

A colleague who had access to the guilty employee’s profile simply copied and pasted the comments and passed them onto their mutual boss, revealing that no matter how high your privacy settings, you can’t guarantee that your activity online won’t come back to haunt you.

Broad and clear

The deciding factor in this case was that Apple had a clear social media policy in place, supported by their induction process which emphasised that commentary on Apple products or critical remarks about the brand were strictly prohibited.

Whilst it will remain true that no policy can be expected to keep up with the constant evolution of social media, broader organisational rules and guidelines can prove sufficient. A policy that reflects the rest of your organisation’s information classification and handling procedures requires minimal alteration to govern employee use of social media.

Share in moderation

As businesses continue to embrace social media as a marketing and communications tool, employees must be made aware that all company information should be protected in the same way as personal information. Addressing the human factor is your organisation’s primary defence against the leak of information or damage to your reputation through social media.

Communicating clear policies on a regular basis and enforcing personal accountability should enable you to trust your employees to limit the information and opinions they share in a personal capacity.

Reputation is everything

Protect your organisation’s reputation as well as your individual employees’ reputations by implementing an effective social media policy. Remind your workforce that what goes online stays online, and that their networking activity will have increasing significance for them and the company as social media becomes increasingly influential in every aspect of our lives.