Social Media Misuse

In a rapidly evolving digital landscape, it is becoming increasingly common for people to share their opinions before considering the consequences. Voltaire famously said: “Common sense is not so common” and never has this been more appropriate than in the use of social media.

A recent article published by Hootsuite (a social media management system) revealed that the phrase “fired over a Tweet” returns over 30 million search results on Google.

Did you know?

  • Since 2005 455 Police, 597 council workers and 1035 NHS staff have been disciplined/sacked for inappropriate social media use? (Nield, 2015)
  • Justine Sacco, PR Consultant and Senior Director of Corporate Communications at IAC, was sacked over the tweeting the following: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” Justine posted the tweet in 2013 whilst boarding a plane to Cape Town, Africa. Whilst in the air and blissfully unaware, the tweet went viral. Justine was sacked before the plane touched down.
  • Cella, a young girl from Texas, was fired before starting her new job at Jets Pizza for tweeting: “EW I start this **** arse job tomorrow.” Her new employer replied: “And… no you don’t start that FA job today! I just fired you!”

Just a few examples but definitely food for thought. So how best should employers manage their staff’s use of social media, especially outside of working hours?

In truth this is nigh on impossible. Individuals use can not be monitored 24/7. It is made even more complex by most employers actively encouraging their staff to positively promote their work place; be it announcing company wins/awards or recruitment drives.

However, for the benefit of the company and the individual (it is equally important to stress to them, that once their opinion is aired, it is forever available for potential future employers to read) a social media policy should be written to safeguard both parties from crisis. It is worth noting that a policy should not solely address employee’s criticism of their employers and organisation but also criticism of their peers/managers and clients. It might also include antisocial behaviour outside of work that might reflect negatively on the company.

ACAS (amongst others) provide sound advice for formulating company policies, including legal considerations, distinguishing between private and professional use and acceptable behaviour. Follow this link for further information.

In short, they advise employers to take a ‘common sense stance’ in regulating conduct and treat ‘electronic behaviour’ as they would ‘non-electronic behaviour’.

Don’t leave it until it’s too late – social media waits for no man!