Social Media for Managers

by Theresa Truscott

Legal considerations

It is important to make everyone in the organisation aware of the legal aspects of social media. There are many areas where an organisation can get into serious trouble over the use of social media.

Some key areas to be aware of are

  • Employee monitoring – including online activity and geotagging
  • IP and breach of copyright
  • Cyber-bullying, defamation and other unacceptable behaviour
  • Discrimination and use of social media in recruitment.

Employee monitoring

The employer’s best course of action regarding any type of monitoring is to inform employees of the company’s actions and expectations. In fact, it is a good idea for employers to develop in their social media policy a method for monitoring to make sure that their employees are aware of it.

If an employee files suit for invasion of privacy, the employer’s best defence will be to show that the employee did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. A policy that clearly spells out how, when and where employees will be monitored provides evidence that the employee did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

You should consult your legal department if in doubt. Check that the organisation’s policy contains clear guidelines both for acceptable behaviour during online activity and for employee monitoring.

IP and breach of copyright

Copyright in the UK is governed by the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988, which is the primary piece of legislation dealing with intellectual property rights (IPR). Important changes to the 1988 act came into force in 2003, resulting in amendments relating to the dissemination of copyright material via the Internet.

Since most countries account for protection of copyright materials, it is up to the organisation to clearly define that material which it considers its property. A social media policy should also identify who is responsible for control of such material and who the employees can go to with questions or concerns.

This is an instance when a business can empower its employees through partnership. An employee who feels dominated by restrictions of social media usage will fear to discuss with his/her superior opportunities to promote or engage discussion about the company. On the other hand, if the employee has a designated person to go to with questions and is encouraged in his/her professional use of social media for business objectives, innovative ideas for marketing can be recognised and implemented at all levels of the organisation.

Unacceptable behaviour

For any manager, it’s important to outline what is expected from online behaviour. Clearly outlining the acceptable and unacceptable in terms of social media use is key to avoiding legal entanglements. After all, staff (and you) are representing the company and could/should be completely responsible for their actions.

Have clear and printed definitions of cyber-bullying and defamation and the repercussions of each.

The use of social media for recruitment

Can I use social media for recruitment? The short answer is, ‘Yes, you can use social media in your recruitment process’; yet a better question concerns how to do it both appropriately and effectively.

It is perfectly acceptable to post job roles on forums and social media platforms, providing their rules allow it. When the platform (such as LinkedIn) is specifically set up for recruitment, you can even search for candidates. However, using sites such as Facebook or Twitter to find candidates becomes problematic as this begins blurring the boundaries between professional and personal information.

Using any social media sites to look at pictures of candidates or to find out how they interact with other people is extremely dangerous, as it leaves an organisation open to charges of discrimination.

It is probably a good idea to consult your legal department or a specialist in online law to make sure you are doing everything you can to comply with all the regulations.