COMMENT: Neil Warwick - Avoiding the pitfalls of posting

JUST prior to Christmas, LinkedIn posted a page detailing the Top 12 Thought Leadership posts for 2012.

JUST prior to Christmas, LinkedIn posted a page detailing the Top 12 Thought Leadership posts for 2012. One of the most followed posts in 2012 was a piece about the Top Five Corporate Twitter disasters of 2012.

The five tweets included racist slurs, bad taste puns about Hurricane Sandy and even blatant Stock Exchange breaches. The one thing they had in common though was that they were posted by employees, largely by accident without much, if any, thought about the potential consequences. The tweets also had a negative impact on the organisations that the people worked at.

These days nearly everything on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn becomes part of your digital footprint and, by extension, part of the digital footprint of the organisation you work for. Much in the same way that the internet, arguably the most powerful communication tool ever, has been used for base purposes, trends are now beginning to appear in relation to the use of social media.

One example is the development of so-called trolls. This is where offensive and vitriolic comments are posted by people on websites with open commentary boxes and these people have become known as trolls. Cyber-bullying was once isolated to people’s personal social media sites such as Facebook, but it is increasingly becoming part of the corporate world too. We are starting to see it as a tool for pre-litigation purposes as well as a platform for disgruntled people to try (in their eyes) to settle old scores.

Much in the same way that you can never turn off the internet, it is almost impossible to erase posts from social media sites – a tweet that you delete can still be found on Twitter if others have retweeted it.

Employers can mitigate the risks of social media, or more specifically, those posed by your employees. When it comes to best practice, organisations should have social media policies in place which make clear the firm’s stance on social media and what is expected of employees. The carrot of compliance will always have a more systemic effect than the stick of litigation applied randomly.

:: Neil Warwick is a partner at the region’s leading law firm, Dickinson Dees


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