Whilst social media is arguably one of the most widely-used platforms for businesses looking to increase brand awareness, it could certainly still be considered a risk to your organisation – especially when your employees get involved.

Wasted working hours

Have you ever caught members of staff mindlessly scrolling through social media sites on their pc rather than working?

Online trends, viral jokes and endless notifications are all examples of day-to-day distractions which will draw your employees’ attention away from their work. This time adds up considerably and before you know it the working day is over and many tasks are left unfinished. Research from a communications agency has shown that as many as 54% of UK workers frequently post Facebook updates whilst they are at work, yet, only a mere 5% of culprits have received warnings about it from their managers.

Overall, around 1.5 working hours are lost every day as a result of staff members being transfixed by social media.

It’s more than likely that most of your employees have some form of social media profiles, and although it might be unreasonable to outlaw its use during work hours entirely, you should definitely consider setting out boundaries.

These can be implemented within your social media policy, or, if it would suit your company, you could think about installing a filter on your computers. This, however, is a more extreme response and something you should consider only if social media misuse is a serious issue in your company.

Employee misconduct

When you consider the risks of using social media for work, employee misconduct online might be the least of your concerns. It makes sense that you feel this way, as on the surface it might seem unlikely.

You might believe your team members are too professional and conscientious to ever slander your company online, but in reality, it’s actually much easier to cause a stir on social media than you may realise – and the effects on your business can be catastrophic.

It’s becoming increasingly common for people to list their place of work on their social media profiles, sometimes including a link to the business’s own social media account in their biography. As great as it is that your employees are proud to work for you, you should be cautious that the things they post might not always be appropriate.

Think about it like this – how would it make you look if offensive content was shared online by someone who evidently works for you? Or even worse, what if they referenced your company, or revealed confidential secrets about customers and colleagues?

Controversy doesn’t easily fade away – especially on the internet.

Do you remember back in 2014 when a director (Rakesh Agrawal) at PayPal sent out a series of aggressive tweets naming and shaming his least-favourite colleagues? PayPal swiftly responded by tweeting “Rakesh Agrawal is no longer with the company. Treat everyone with respect. PayPal has zero tolerance”.

The tweets are still in existence and can be found online with ease, forever reminding PayPal to act with vigilance when choosing someone to act as their director – and to emphasise their social media policy to all staff members.

Smith v Scottish Canals (British Waterways Board)

If your social media blunder doesn’t hit the press, then there’s a very likely chance that it will end in legal action instead. A notorious example of this would be Smith v Scottish Canals, which took place back in 2015.

Smith was employed by Scottish Canals when it was discovered he had made multiple derogatory comments on Facebook about his workplace and colleagues, as well as a comment indicating that he had been drinking whilst being on standby (something which Scottish Canals had expressively outlawed).  The court initially upheld that Mr Smith had been unfairly dismissed, but this changed during the appeal process (which was instigated by Scottish Canals). Despite the comments being made years before they were found, and Mr Smith strongly defending them, the employment tribunal ruled that Smith’s dismissal had been fair.

Benefits of using social media for business

Depending on the nature of your business, it might be necessary for you, or your marketing team to actually work closely with social media. It’s becoming more and more likely that you do use social media in some way, as organisations in every industry and sector have started realising the benefits of doing so. The benefits not only include being able to grow your audience and online presence, but you are also able to see a greater insight into the online activity of your customers – how successful your adverts are, who is viewing your website and what they are looking for, as an example.

Choosing the right people to run your social media

If you have a small company, you probably don’t feel as though it is necessary to have a fully-fledged marketing team, but you must ensure that whoever is managing the social media for your business is trustworthy, experienced and understands the company values.