In brief - Employers warned to watch out for
unauthorised use of company social networking accounts
Increased use of social networking sites in the workplace
requires employers to implement strategies to prevent the misuse of
such sites by employees. Problems can arise when employees turn
rogue, using the very tool companies are trying to utilise for
marketing purposes as a weapon against them.
Corporations increasingly using social media to promote
Companies are jumping on board the social media bandwagon in
order to promote awareness of their brand and engage with their
customers. Social networking sites play an important role in
allowing businesses to market to a broader audience.
With an enhanced ability to reach out to thousands of consumers,
however, come increased risks. Companies need to ensure that social
media channels such as Twitter are taken seriously by ensuring that
appropriate protocols are in place for their use.
Keyboard revolt: Twitter disaster unleashed when HMV
On 31 January 2013 British company HMV discovered the backlash
an angry employee could cause on Twitter.
"Mass execution, of loyal employees who love the
brand" was posted on the company's official HMV Twitter
feed along with comments such as "There are over 60 of us
being fired at once!" and "Under contract, we've been
unable to say a word - or more importantly - tell the
These tweets were posted by a disgruntled employee whose
position had been made redundant by the company. The unflattering
comments were deleted within minutes of being posted and the
account was allegedly closed within half an hour of the cyber
mishap. By that stage, however, some of HMV's thousands of
Twitter followers had already taken screen shots of the Tweets and
disseminated them further.
Twitter mishaps lead to corporate embarrassment and
Earlier in 2010 Vodafone UK experienced an unwelcome post
expressed via their official Twitter account which made
inappropriate references to homosexuals and women. In early 2011
Chrysler's account was recorded as posting "I find it
ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here
knows how to f**king drive".
Perhaps most memorable was the online criticism recorded on
American company Kitchenaid's Twitter account during the
October 2012 American presidential campaign.
In that case a disgruntled employee took to the company's
page to post a disparaging remark regarding Barack Obama and the
death of his grandmother: "Obamas gma even knew it was going 2
b bad! 'She died 3 days b4 he became president.'"
In all instances the inappropriate comments were deleted
promptly and followed up by an apologetic statement from the
company in question addressing the issue. Unfortunately for those
companies, however, by that time their social media misadventures
had already become mainstream news stories.
Regardless of what approach is taken by employers in response to
a social media mishap, the damage is generally already done once
unauthorised social media posts appear on the internet to be
received by millions within seconds.
Social media should be taken seriously and accounts
supervised by management
To limit potential misuse of your company's social
networking accounts, we recommend the following steps:
Ensure that all social media networking accounts are
Limit the number of employees who have access to the
company's social networking accounts.
If employees are required to use the company's account, it
is recommended that the process be supervised by management. The
password for the account should be updated regularly and all email
notifications should be sent to someone in a position of
Limit the number of joint/multiple accounts associated with the
official company account to avoid instances of accidental
publishing in the wrong account.
Ensure a stringent internet usage policy is in place with
provisions dealing specifically with social networking. This policy
should be read and understood by all staff with access to the
The social networking policy should be reviewed regularly to
ensure compliance. Training sessions should be conducted with
employees prior to their use of the company's social networking
If practical, it is recommended that posts are signed off by
someone with authority before they are posted on the company's
social page and/or account.
Long experience representing many of Australia's leading employers has taught us that in employment litigation the identity of an employee's representative is a major factor in how employee litigation runs.
Australian employees receive certain entitlements (such as annual leave and superannuation) where contractors do not.
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