What happens when you decide to use Facebook to rant about work?
Well, if you’re not careful as Miss Preece, a pub shift manager who posted abusive comments describing a workplace incident after hours on the social media, you’ll probably get dismissed.
Another fair dismissal of a call-centre worker for offensive Facebook comments about a colleague proves that the trend is on the rise. In fact, the cases are more than can be listed i this article. Social media is a powerful tool for enforcing employment law.
But not only. Social media law goes wherever there’s social media – from customers to competition, contractors to random visitors, everyone and everything that is online needs to comply with the law first.
As every successful entrepreneur knows, the foundation of a solid, sustainable business is being on the legal side of things. Now, forward-thinking business owners are looking into social media law the same way – as a tool they need to have on their side. And it turns out
Here are 7 ways to stay safe and legal on social media that might just help you stay on top of your social media accounts in 2016:
Have a social media policy
I know, I know….Social media policy isn’t a fun or pleasant thing to do (that’s why it’s better you leave it to us – lawyers) but you know you need one. If you are on social media or your employees have private accounts, even if you use computers and Internet connection for work, you need it.
“Your staff, clients and corporations are already on social media and will more than likely be talking about your company,” points out Katrina Collier, the director of Winning Impression LTD, a London firm helping companies stay legal with social recruitment. “Clear guidelines will ensure that your company brand is enhanced and that your reputation is not sullied by an errant remark.
When creating a social media policy you have quite a lot of resources. Many companies like Cisco, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, and Razorfish have comprehensive social media policies that you can draw ideas from.
It’s really not cool to base hiring and firing decisions on social media activity unless the employee has been informed that she’ll be monitored. “Spying” on employees and customers through social media is only acceptable after you’ve met them.
“One of the challenges of using social media is that there is a lot being posted that could disclose protected class information,” said Thomas, a Fortune 500 clients consultant on equal employment opportunity and compensation. “So for a Facebook page or a LinkedIn page, you might see a photograph. From that you might be able to infer the gender of that person, the race, the ethnicity, the age of that person. You might be able to infer a disability status. You might be able to see this person is pregnant. This is not information you should have when you’re making the hiring decision.’’
Your business might not have the resources to hire a professional copywriter, designer and social media content manager but this doesn’t mean it’s okay to copy-paste others’ posts, images or text.
Instead of trying to match the big players resources and content, focus on one or two social media websites and go for quality, not quantity.
It’s easy to snap a picture or even copy from a huge website, right? In the end, who will even notice?
Well, someone noticed when Jake’s assistant posted an image belonging to another article in their curated content blog post (website and blog have been taken down). Although the link referred to the original article, the picture was used without permission and the company had to pay AUD 900 fine.
Your content can’t match the big players and agencies because of your limited resources, but copying their work isn’t the solution. It won’t build on your reputation and it can get you huge fines.
The better way is to find the niche big players are missing and exploit that. Make your marketing lazer focused, then they’ll start reposting you.
Sharing is not caring
One of the most unprofessional things you can do online is to infringe someone’s copyright. But that’s not the only way to do sharing wrong.
As a rule of thumb your business, you and your employees shouldn’t share any images without the exclusive permission of the person in the picture and the one who took it. No exceptions.
Another big no-no is sharing confidential information, contracts, client data, office selfies and anything related to the confidential information that is distributed in the office or storefront of your business.
The waitress who got fired at Applebees for sharing the image of the receipt of a client learned that too well. Posting any client related information without consent can lead to legal proceedings. If you want to stay on the safe side, consider this information confidential:
- names, dates and contract information
- client images
- announcing new clients
- results achieved with clients
- clients’ testimonials and comments
- events attending and appointments (Meeting Jane from XYZ today to discuss her new marketing plan! isn’t a good Facebook status)
Clearly, having someone’s consent in writing would change the rules of the game and allow you to share information and stay legally social.
Tell the truth
That’s not only a way to keep the law but also the best manner to act if you want to create engagement and gain true followers that trust you. We are bombarded with ads every day and in the end people will do business with the ones who stay genuine and true to themselves.
Keeping score of “the truth” isn’t easy even for the social media itself. A defendant from Colorado, in the States sued Facebook for misrepresenting to his friends that he “liked” the newspaper USA Today.
Even though accidentally clicking a “like” button might have been the case, Facebook will be held responsible for the act. In the same way, your business is responsible for positioning its products and services.
Does it pass the grandma test?
It’s difficult to actually comprehend the amount of power that social media has. Once something is posted it’s there to stay (even if you delete it, screenshots are saved somewhere). The easiest way to stay safe on social media is to ask yourself “what would my grandma say if she saw this?” before posting.
On social media, everyone sees everything. You and your employees must be aware that there isn’t such a thing as a personal blog – if it’s published it’s online and it can be used against you. The best way to let your employees know what they can and can’t post on and off work is to have comprehensive social media policy.
We have a winner!
One of the high risk areas of social media is holding contests, giveaways and leveraging user-generated content. It’s complicated because you need to know in depth the Award and Competition Laws in Australia as well as the social media website specific rules that apply to contests. A hint – they’re all different.
The Topps Company sure learned this well after launching its #RockThatRock campaign, which asked fans to post photos on social media wearing their “edible bling.” It got a little out of hand as a few teen girls entered the contest posting photos that some considered inappropriate. As a result, an investigation was started to identify if the promotion is in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act by collecting and disclosing personal information from children under age 13 without their parents’ permission. See the small print here? It doesn’t matter if it’s intentional or not.
Social media is simple but serious business regardless of all the goofy selfies, lame posts and personal details shared online. The fact that everyone’s doing it wrong doesn’t excuse you and won’t work quite well in court. Do your homework and have a successful and social 2016.
To staying socially legal….
Every smart entrepreneur loves social media policies…
wanna know why? Join Katherine and the savviest entrepreneurs for the next #socialmediapolicy meet-up! There will be coffee, laughing, epic social media fails and of course, social media know-how only a lawyer can give you…
See you there!