Last month I had the pleasure of attending an extremely insightful breakfast seminar with Chadwick Lawrence Solicitors on the subject of social media and employer/employee rights.
Stocked up on bacon butties and croissants (spoilt for choice!), the seminar kicked off bright and early with Chadwick Lawrence’s Managing Partner Neil Wilson taking us through various case studies which examined how Twitter and Facebook affected an employee’s rights, and whether their contract of employment had been called into question.
One thing that was startlingly apparent to me while listening to Neil go through these case studies was just how obvious the employees’ mistakes were, and yet they didn’t think twice before posting their negative and defamatory opinions on social media. Whether they were bashing the company they worked for, complaining about having a “bad day” because of their manager or making digs at colleagues, all of these comments were recklessly shared online without hesitation.
Saying the wrong thing on social media can be devastating for you and your company. It can sever ties with sponsors, ruin chances with potential clients, offend customers and in some unfortunate cases, cause you to lose your job.
So how can you avoid these common social media mistakes and protect your company’s reputation? Apart from thinking before you tweet, bear the following in mind…
DO: Create boundaries and enforce rules
Since social media is such an integral part of everyday life for most people now, it has become more important to set boundaries for employees and if need be, enforce rules.
Companies are increasingly adding social media clauses into their contracts, so that employees are aware of the rules and protocol from the start. Not only is this a formal and fair way to ensure social media usage sticks to a pre-determined guideline, it also covers the employer’s back in case employees step out of line online.
Social media clauses allow companies to outline preferences and consequences on the use of social in the workplace, including whether particular business should be kept confidential. This can then act as evidence in the case of a dismissal.
DON’T: Indirectly moan about your day, your customers or your colleagues
We all have bad days, that is understandable. But complaining about how bad your day was on Twitter or Facebook is not the greatest idea, especially if you are friends with colleagues or clients online. It almost seems too obvious to point out, but as Neil’s case studies demonstrated, people still fall victim to this mistake.
Moaning about a customer when you get home makes you look unprofessional. Making indirect digs on social media about a colleague could cause tension when you’re back in the office – and even if that colleague is not in your ‘Friends’ or ‘Followers’ list, you can guarantee they’ll find out via a mutual source.
Even when you think your social media profile is not on anyone’s radar or you’re attempting to be anonymous by using a nickname for your Twitter handle, it’s almost certain that somebody you work with is aware of your account and might check it from time to time.
Current colleagues aside, it’s also good to bear in mind that future employers or potential clients might be doing their research on you too. So that tweet you posted last month about the dresses at Topshop being overpriced and not worth the money? You may want to delete that if you’re ever trying do business with the brand or bag a job in their team!
DEFINITELY DON’T: Tag or mention colleagues or your company’s name directly
Again, you would hope red flags appear before anyone tags a person’s name in their negative tweet or mentions the company directly when ranting about the manager, but it would appear not. If you want to air your opinion about an issue in the office or enter a debate with a co-worker, always take it offline. Not only is it less likely to escalate, it is also taken out of the preying public eye and therefore will not reflect nearly as badly on you as a heated argument on Twitter would.
Similarly, if you have your company’s name or logo anywhere on your social media accounts (perhaps in your bio or in a profile picture), you are then viewed as a representation of your company and you need to be extra vigilant about what you post. Even a status about how hungover you are from your wild mid-week night out could land you in hot water, because it makes you appear uncommitted to your job and a little reckless. Unless, of course, you work at a nightclub.
The best way to avoid these slip-ups (and to cover your back just in case you do slip-up), is to state: “All views my own” in your Twitter bio. And if you can’t trust yourself to resist a rant on Facebook, then take your place of work out of your profile information.
Although these points may seem simple enough, it is always worth keeping them in the back of your mind. It just takes one fleeting tweet or status update to give you and your company a bad reputation that can end up preceding you for weeks, months or years. The internet has a lethal memory!