With 2 billion social media users worldwide, 500 million daily Instagram stories being posted and 360,000 tweets sent every minute; social media has a huge presence in society.
Whilst having juxtaposing qualities in terms of good and bad attributes in a business/personal context, advantageously, social media has elevated companies into what they are today. The establishment of social media has created a whole new billion pound sector in the market creating a wealth of new opportunities. Nevertheless, with Social Media Day upon us (30th June), we have to remember to stay in compliance with the law to make sure to safeguard employees and our companies.
Social Media as a business tool
Promoting your business
Social media has excelled businesses into the digital era and has provided cost effective marketing, sales and HR strategies. 73% of marketers believe social media marketing has been “somewhat effective” or “very effective” for their business, proving a triumph in employee minds. 71% of consumers who have had a positive experience with a brand on social media are likely to recommend the brand to their friends and family. Indicating that, not only is brand loyalty important for a consumer, but also a company’s digital presence.
Many businesses rely on their employees to use social channels as a positive function to spread the brands ethos, personality and message. An example of this includes Starbuck’s “Tweet a Coffee” campaign which was ultimately spread in-house by employees and managed to gain direct impact on sales with an $180,000 increase in the first month. A great way to reward employees on a HR stand point could be through social media, this can be seen through an initiative from Walt Disney Company on their careers Facebook page where they highlight the veterans that work for the company.
Most importantly social media is used to headhunt and find the perfect candidates with apps such as LinkedIn (the second largest professional app in the world). Further research found that Four-fifths of job seekers will research an employer online before applying and two-thirds (66%) of job changes are to organisations that candidates already know. Evidently, social media is used to build relationships and to acquire talent that will fit a company’s values.
However, ACA cautions that using information from a candidate’s social media profile without their permission in the recruitment process could breach GDPR rules. The GDPR principle is that an employer being able to see a candidate’s social media profile does not mean it has the candidate’s consent to take it into account.
Implementing a social media policy in the office
Rules and Regulations
Some estimates report that misuse of the internet and social media by workers costs Britain’s economy billions of pounds every year. ACA proposes that it may be helpful to set some guidelines – for example, personal use of social media is permitted during tea breaks and lunchtime this could help to increase productivity and retain concentration on work related tasks. An employer should consult their employees or trade union representatives when drawing up a policy.
A 470% increase in social media crime over the past decade has led employers grappling with issues like time theft, defamation, cyber bullying, freedom of speech and the invasion of privacy. Therefore, safeguarding employees and training them on the associated risks that social media can bring can help to reduce serious issues such as phishing scams and harassment.
Potential legal risks if policies are not implemented
ACA cautions that employees and employers should also be aware that their online behaviour could break defamation, data protection or privacy laws (which we shall discuss further below). For example, if an employee posted damaging comments about a company or its products or publishing sensitive commercial data could cause serious risks for both your company and employees. Another example of employee risks includes; divulging protected personal data giving details of salary, political or religious beliefs or disciplinary records.
Three considerations we would have to examine in regards to social media and alliance with the law include:
Article 8 within the Human Rights Act gives a ‘right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence’. Case law suggests that employees have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the workplace.
The Data Protection Act 1988 covers how information about employees and job applicants can be collected, handled and used.
The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 covers the extent to which organisations can use covert surveillance on its employees, and prevents breaching privacy of employees.
Whilst laws have been past to safeguard social media usage we could argue that, bilaterally, social media has impeached on law passing. An example of this is the Brueni Boycott, despite celebrities such as George Clooney campaigning on social media sites such as Instagram calling for personalities and members of the public to boycott Brunei-owned hotels; his new law “death by stoning for gay sex” in the Sultanate was rebuked but not eradicated. On the other hand, whilst this case was not successful it has allowed a conversation to be discussed within society.
It is important to remember that whilst social media presents a wealth of positive attributes, safeguarding and complying with regulations will ultimately benefit our businesses in the long run. Training and policy making is the easiest way to enable your employees to fully comply with company rules and to protect them from any mishaps. Therefore if you need any further advice on Social Media Legal Considerations, policy making or laws, or any other HR and Employment Law issues please call one of our Employment Law Consultants on 0161 603 2156 to see how we can assist.