Social channels connect people to a wide network of current and potential contacts. For employers, this provides a unique opportunity to connect with customers or clients. For employees, it’s a unique opportunity to participate with peers along with prospective customers/clients. This is the good news, but it’s also the bad news.
Why? Because these “opportunities” are not always positive.
Lack of Delineation
The reason why posting online can be so tricky is the lack of delineation between an employee’s personal and professional life. What was once easy to separate is now “wide open” for all in today’s digital world. Since 2010, there have been laws put in place to help protect a person’s private online activity from the repercussions of a social post. However, there is a lot of room for interpretation too.
For example, in 2010, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced that employers could not punish workers for discussing:
- Working conditions
- Lazy employees
- Complaints about management
Some states have taken the protection a bit further. In California, Colorado, Louisiana, New York, and North Dakota, employees are fully protected when they are off-duty. If the activity is lawful, they are protected regardless of how distasteful or “offensive” their conduct is deemed by colleagues.
However, even with this protection, businesses have a lot of room to reprimand or even terminate an employee for online behavior when interpreted as:
- Hate speech
- Disparaging against a protected category of race, religion, and gender
It comes down to how a social post is interpreted, so careful considerate posting is a must. After all, posts cannot be “undone”.
It is not uncommon for a negative reaction to a social post to have immediate, irrevocable consequences whether it is done by an organization or an individual.
For example, Rosanne Barr, who was on the brink of a major comeback on network TV, was fired after a racially charged tweet. What took only moments to type and “send” into the ether ended her employment on her namesake show.
Companies are also on the hot seat when social posts are taken out of context or misinterpreted by members of the public. Pepsi ran into trouble when their Swedish branch ran Facebook ads showing a popular Portuguese soccer player depicted as a voodoo doll being tortured in jest. The Portuguese reacted by creating a 100,000 strong anti-Pepsi group in a single day!
Just like when words are spoken in anger, people remember what was “said” online in a post. However, the repercussions are much worse for an online social post because they never “disappear”. Even when it is deleted off the channel, there is no way to know if it was captured as a screenshot image or cached on a web browser. A good rule of thumb is to realize once something is posted it can never be deleted. There is always the potential that a visual representation was saved by someone, somewhere proving what was “said” online.
3 Things to Remember When Posting Online
Therefore, it is key for employers and employees to understand three important factors when posting online:
- Social posts are immediate
- Social posts cannot be erased
- Social posts can irrevocably damage reputations
What is the solution? Always think before you post and post with caution.
For organizations, the best course of action is to implement a sound social media policy. It is an excellent way to establish what is/is not acceptable when posting online on company channels or personal channels when an employee is seen to be representing the organization.
For private citizens, always post with caution. Companies are not supposed to base hiring/firing on personal social channels, however, that is not always the case. It is not difficult to gain access to an individual’s social channels and the behavior demonstrated there is judged. When there are questionable posts on someone’s personal social channels, they are often used to make decisions without the employee or job candidate ever realizing it.
To protect your organizational or “personal” brand always:
- Consider the post from different perspectives
- If it is questionable or can easily be misinterpreted skip it
- Before hitting post, tweet, share or pin, proofread the content including any images/video to ensure what is intended is what will be seen online
If you do not post with caution and care, be prepared to face the consequences. After all, in today’s real-time digital world, there is little room for error and even less for forgiveness.
Need Help with Your Social Media Policies?
SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc. can help you formulate a viable Electronic Communication policy. Call 330-255-1101 to speak with one of our professionals about social media security training or policy maintenance programs today!
Great article Tim and team. I came up with a new golden rule for social media based on an old golden rule growing up. My golden rule for social media is…Don’t post anything that you wouldn’t want your mom to see. A great mentor to me also put it best when she told me that you shouldn’t share what you don’t feel comfortable sharing. Don’t put it out there if you don’t want people to know it or some how use it against you.