For start-ups and SME’s, social media offers an ideal platform to market what you do and spread the word through networking, building contacts and harbouring a reputation for your company. It’s all about your social media reputation management and how others will perceive you over time.
In light of a recent case against an employee who used social media to poach employees from her previous organisation, we explore ways in which companies can better protect themselves not only after the employee has exited, but also during their employment and how to keep employees engaged and mindful of their current usage. In the aforementioned case, a former employee of a US based company was sued for breaching her contract, which included a non-competition, non-solicitation and non-disclosure agreement. It was alleged that she used LinkedIn to poach at least 20 employees of her previous employer.
Interestingly enough, the restrictions in her contract did not make any reference to violation via social media specifically, which could potentially have had some unwelcoming results for the employer, in terms of protection of their social media contacts, as well as their online social media reputation management, not to mention time management. The growth in social media has been so rapid that it’s easy to feel left behind when growing your business. It is undoubtedly a great marketing tool for any business and when cultivated in the right way, it can enhance a company’s stance within their industry.
In addition, employers can hone in on employee skills that may not otherwise be recognised in their day-to-day role, but also allow for cross-collaborations and the sharing of knowledge through the net. Further to this, employees are likely to feel engaged, which has an added benefit on placing a personal spin on the way the company networks with its audience. Through the right social media reputation management, company staff can enhance the business brand and increase potential business too.
On the flipside, if the business has not carried out a risk assessment, equally not having an action plan put into place, it could place a hindrance on the business. Employees not being appropriately trained to use social media could bring the company into disrepute, as the above example demonstrates; and so the reputation could suffer because of this. Whilst the benefits of speed and brevity of social media seem obvious, there may be issues of confidentiality, data protection and management of employee usage and the quality of content that reflects the company’s reputation. It is down to enforcing the correct social media reputation management skills within company staff.
So, although weighing up the pros and cons, there is a clear benefit for employees to use social media, but how can businesses protect themselves during and after employment? If you do have employment contracts with restrictive clauses, I would sincerely advise taking some time to review these and ensure that these agreements do specifically reference social media to avoid any possible confusion. It is also a worthwhile effort and investment to get company staff onto social media reputation management workshops so that they can be better trained.
Proper strategies need to developed and put into place with adequate training for the employee and guideline drawn up in terms of responsible and appropriate use. Drawing up social media policies could also enhance protection of the Company and its goodwill.