Employers leaving themselves exposed to social media risks

Just one company in four has a dedicated social media policy to govern employees’ use of sites such as Facebook and Twitter, a survey has found.

The research, published by law firm DLA Piper, also reveales that just 43% of organisations have developed policies around the use of such sites as part of a broader HR or IT strategy. This is despite the fact that 31% have had to take disciplinary action as a result of information that employees have posted about their employer, and that 21% have done so in response to posts about other members of the company.

Only 28% of organisations have put in place restrictive covenants regarding the use of business contacts on social media sites once they have left the business and 34% admit to being worried about confidential information being posted online.

Kate Hodgkiss, partner in DLA Piper’s employment practice and author of the report, said: “The rise of social media in the early 2000s has changed business attitudes to communication, but with this new opportunity also comes new risk.

“The study highlights that many are failing to protect themselves against the legal ramifications, as social networking practices outpace business policies. The research also highlights the growing need for a definitive social media policy which is regularly assessed and updated.”

Additionally, the research found that companies are taking advantage of social media for their own purposes. More than half (65%) encourage the use of social media for work-related activities, with the main reasons being building brand awareness (cited by 80% of respondents), marketing (60%) and recruitment (42%).

Internally focused initiatives were less common motivations, with 39% using sites to communicate with employees, 37% for employee engagement and 28% for teamworking.

In all, 76% of companies have some form of corporate media presence, with the most popular sites being Facebook (86%), LinkedIn (78%) and Twitter (62%).

“There is widespread recognition that social media is not just a tool for marketing, but something that needs to be considered by all aspects of a business, from HR to risk to the upper echelons of corporate management,” added Hodgkiss.

“Our respondents recognised the benefits of social media to get their messages out to a wide audience at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods and far more quickly.”

View XpertHR’s policy on the use of social media in the workplace.

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