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Five Top Training Tips For Dealing With Social Media Misuse

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These last few weeks, I have been out and about speaking to lots of local businesses about social media in the workplace. It is currently a hot topic once again, following the Proudman/Carter-Silk LinkedIn exchange and, even more recently, relevant to the legal profession, the Legal Aid Agency fell victim to an inexplicable tweet, seemingly the result of either accidental typing of an over-eager toddler getting his hands on their social media manager’s device!

Many employers think that they haven’t had any issues with social media, but after a discussion with an employment solicitor, they often remember situations which have happened within their own businesses which fall into that category. Social media can include many things like receiving a resignation through Facebook Messenger to slating a former employer on Twitter following dismissal.

Each of these issues highlights risks to employers who have to think about their online reputation on social media as well as the usual day to day risks. Having spoken to different businesses and organisations, I felt that there was a top five tips which could be taken away from those seminars and which could form the backbone of training for staff. So, here they are:

  1. Think before you post! Content which might seem a fantastic idea after two glasses of wine on a Saturday evening could be completely misconstrued by others. The permanency of social media is something which individuals often fail to understand. Even if an individual immediately awakens sober on Sunday morning and deletes any tweet or Facebook status or comment, the content could have already been screenshot for future use by other people, and that can be very dangerous in a work context.
  2. To make sure that people understand that control over content can be lost very quickly. Once any item has been delivered through a social media medium,  it can be retained and circulated without your permission and cause huge issues. Reputations, and indeed personal relationships, can be wrecked by one ill-thought moment which an individual should be aware of.
  3. Is the information that you are sharing appropriate? If an employee working for your organisation has very right wing views, for example, could this have an effect on your reputation and, if so, is it appropriate for the employee to maintain that they are employed by your business if they insist on posting such information online?
  4. Are employees aware of the responsibility they have for not harassing other employees? There is case law which suggests that employees who make remarks harassing or bullying other staff, even outside of office hours, on their social media accounts, can be safely dismissed. Are your employees aware that this is the case?
  5. Do you have a social media policy? If you do, then make sure that this is enforced across the board and that people have copies of this and understand the content. If you have a strict policy, you need to make sure transgressions are dealt with appropriately at all times. 


All of these points are basic training and information which staff should be made aware of. On a practical level, one vital tip is that any employee responsible for your social media accounts should also share passwords with other people within the organisation to ensure that there are no posts directly to any of your social media should they leave under a cloud. Even big players like HMV have had serious scrapes by failing to make sure that they have security in place to prevent post-employment rants by staff.

Finally, if you haven’t yet experienced any issues with social media within your business, count yourself as one of the minority. An international law firm carried out a recent survey and internationally most employers, in fact some 70%, had had cause to discipline staff over issues arising out of social media. That was a significant increase on the previous year, suggesting that the issue is growing.

It’s clear that social media is here to stay in its many different guises and that businesses recognise the need for high quality social media content to enhance their profiles. The key is to make sure you keep that high quality without any damaging of your online presence by employees.


If you have any questions at all about social media policies or want to discuss a particular issue further, then please don't hesitate to get in touch with me.

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