Social media such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn carry risks for companies because of the free use of these tools by employees, says Rosalind Davey, a partner at legal firm Bowman Gilfillan. “Three obvious risks are damage to reputation, defamation claims and dismissal disputes. For example, a disgruntled employee badmouths his employer on Twitter, tarnishing the company’s reputation and resulting in his dismissal.”
The reason for these dangers is that employees have free access to social media platforms, and can – and often do – say whatever they like about their company, colleagues and customers, says Davey.
“Once negative comments – whether witting or unwitting – are out there, they spread like wildfire. The damage is done, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it spreading. But you can contain the damage”.
So how do companies protect themselves? Davey recommends three commonsense measures.
”Monitor what is being said about you on social media platforms by appointing someone to do this fulltime; make sure you are part of those discussions that are worthy of response – but don’t respond automatically to every single negative comment, as this fuels a pointless debate that might otherwise have died; set rules and boundaries for employees to encourage responsible use of social media.”
Social media is as much part of the communication landscape as the telephone, fax and e-mail, says Davey. But like all tools, it has to be properly managed.
Written byRosalind Davey and Lenja Dahms-Jansen at Bowman Gilfillan