Without a shadow of a doubt, yes, absolutely. In my experience running Berea we’ve identified that nearly every small business client does not possess a Social Media Policy. We’ve also identified that nearly every small business client has heard of, or has actively been involved in, a dispute concerning staff misuse of social media!
But social media is how teenagers communicate, how can it harm my business?
The biggest issue we’ve encountered when discussing social media risk is the lack of understanding of what social media actually is. Regardless of business size social media makes a business, or private individual, a publisher. That entity is putting information into, regardless of “privacy settings”, the public domain.
Publishing carries risk. Risk of libel, slander, unfair competition, etc. The list goes on. Social media makes it possible to publish to the world at large through a few quick taps on a smartphone. How many staff do you know who’ve had a bad day and made an off the cuff sarcastic (or worse) comment about a client or supplier? It’s not that much of a stretch of the imagination to see that rather than a verbal comment, a member of staff could say it under their breath on their potentially perceived private Facebook account. In fact in our experience, this happens more than any business owner should like to know.
All it takes is for that one, simple off the cuff comment to be picked up and shared and the damage is done. The content of the message may even make it back to the client or supplier in question. Even though the member of staff may have published in their own time, on their own device, in their own home, it’ll be your business that will have a bad reputation for their slip up.
How bad can social media misuse get?
To put in into perspective, simply think of the comments or actions you’ve seen or heard in the office that have made you cringe or have given you cause to warn the employee. Now imagine the party to whom is being referred is also within seeing or hearing distance. What will the effect be? The rule of thumb here is if your employees are willing to say it out loud, they’re also likely willing to publish the same damaging thoughts online where there is no boundary to who can hear and see it – it’s only a matter of time before an issue will arise. Staff who may not voice their comments in public, as they’re aware of the repercussions if they’re overheard by management, may be more inclined to state their thoughts clearly through a website they consider outside of the reach of their employment.
The worst case scenario is the loss of a client account, and the potential for a negative reputation that makes acquiring new customers more difficult. Your staff may post pictures or videos of bad work practices, or simply state they don’t enjoy working for a particular customer – if they’re friends with a customer’s employee on Facebook, or a friend of a friend is, the information can travel very quickly, resulting in a difficulty for your business, whilst the employee (without adequate advice by way of a social media policy) can’t be disciplined or prevented from making the same error in judgement in the future.
What can I do to prevent social media causing harm to my business?
There’s only one single yet incredibly simple step a business needs to take to protect itself against the issues as described above, and that’s to implement a coherent, effective Social Media policy. This provides employees with all the guidance they need regarding how they go about using social media for personal or professional purposes, both at work and at home, and on personal devices or company-owned machines.
Acquiring a Social Media Policy:
Berea regularly review Social Media policies in place in small businesses, making us somewhat of an expert in their construction, applicable legislation, and applicable guidance from professional bodies such as ACAS and the Information Commissioners Office. From reviewing these policies its immediately obvious that the HR profession at large is struggling to play catch up in understanding the technicalities of Information Security – it is a completely different playing field to more traditional HR issues and practices. As such Berea has prepared the Cyber HR policy pack, where you can buy and download online what is quite possibly the most comprehensive product of its type available to UK-based small businesses today. Learn more about the solution at www.cyber-hr.com, or the social media policy at www.cyber-hr.com/social-media-policy