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INSIGHT: The pitfalls of using social media in your business

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The pitfalls of using social media in your business

…and some tips on how to avoid them

Ten years ago, who would have predicted that businesses everywhere would be using social media in their daily routine; that we would be accessing LinkedIn to find new staff and keep in touch with business contacts: that Facebook would become a place to advertise goods and services and that people would communicate in messages of less than 140 characters on Twitter to demonstrate expertise and maintain or raise their profile?

Social media usage has become the norm. But, consider these questions:

  • how many businesses have actively considered the risks inherent in their and their employees’ online activities?
  • how many have a social media policy?
  • how many employers know what their employees or competitors are saying online?

If you are a director or partner in a business and answered ‘not me’ to any of the above, you may be putting yourself, your employees and your business at risk.

The proliferation of social media platforms has given publishing rights to every person with access to a computer – whether that is a desktop or a ‘smart ‘phone’. While this is a triumph for freedom of speech and the right to be heard, it is a disaster in the offing for businesses keen to avoid legal liabilities such as those that can arise out of the following examples:

  • employees posting comments or information about the business in their private social media usage which could damage the business reputation;
  • businesses relying on social media to research new job candidates or sack employees for posts made online;
  • referring to sensitive or confidential information online (which can lead to breaches of client confidentiality or security);
  • revealing private information about clients and the public  (which might breach data protection laws);
  • posting potentially libellous comments about third parties (or retweeting/liking other people’s libellous posts); and
  • falling foul of online scams that lead to fraudsters gaining access to the employer’s computer systems and bank accounts.

Examples abound of cases where businesses and their employees have broken the law as a result of ill advised, careless or malicious social media usage. Celebrities, politicians and even lawyers have been caught making inappropriate comments. Most recently, an employee’s negative posts on Facebook about his job led to him being sacked – despite two years having elapsed since the comments were made.

So how do you avoid the pitfalls of social media?

Check out our 10 top tips

Call 0161 785 3500 for help and advice on employment law.

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

This blog was posted some time ago and its contents may now be out of date. For the latest legal position relating to these issues, get in touch with the author - or make an enquiry now.

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