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Companies and Staff Damaged by Social Media

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09 Jul 00:00 by Simon Bruce

Bad reviews on social media about your company can cause severe damage to your company and the author of the offending post. It is a two way street. Here are some rules for this digital road. We have probably all heard of the email sent in haste, and "reply to all" selected, making it even worse. With social media not only is the circulation wider, maybe even global, but it has a memory, a long memory that the author or the company may not be able to erase. This may have serious implications on revenues to all concerned. New rules must be followed to reduce and to control any damage to a corporate reputation from negative comments online. Recent surveys have analysed the effects of comments made online and specifically when aimed at companies and employers. There have also been surveys on product marketing and resulting sales volumes for products that been hit by negative user comments online. Results show that nearly three-quarters of all new product sales are influenced by user comments online. This huge percentage. A negative review.....well you can understand the result. A review seems to have credibility, undeniable credibility. We hope the author was really a buyer, we cannot be certain, but we can be sure damage is done AND this stays online, inflicting more damage. So how does this damage recruitment? In other surveys it was found that nearly half of job applicants had used Internet sites that rate companies, and many had used this rating system - of the web sites - while making their decision to apply or not to apply to the company. This is totally outside your control! Indeed candidates told the survey they ignore the company if it has a poor rating and move to the next job advert. That candidate could have been ideal for your company and is now away to another company, probably a competitor. It should also be said that if an ex-employee posts a comment and their name is visible then, this not only may damage the company but it also damages the author. Would you hire this person? Maybe there are cases when you would, depending on their qualifications and job role but it cannot be denied they may have dented their career prospects long term, as well as your new recruitment drive! We have written before about careless posts on "social" social media sites, when that photo seemed fun at the time....but in the future it forms part of the author's CV. When a recruiter researches the profile of the candidate it may be important in the hiring decision. Customers of the company can see the photo as well! A rigid legal defence by a company in response to accusations never seems to work and could be the opening of a very public legal battle - either way, a good result rarely emerges. So you are in effect unable to control the perceived quality of your company, your products, your conditions of work, your work conditions. Any or all could come under attack with critical posts. Companies have used legal routes to stop or try to correct comments but even if the court rules in favour of the company - and this can mean ruling against the right of free speech - there is still the stain of the entire event on people's minds. Doubt is left in the reader's mind. You may remember political careers ruined by reports. Then years later, if all is proven to have been inaccurate, it is too late as the damage is done, their career is usually ended. Now of course with so many ways to publish a post, your head could be spinning trying to monitor all these sources. If it starts cross-populating, i.e. a tweet referring to a LinkedIn post that is then picked up on Facebook with a startled company director photographed on Instagram, well we are approaching a media storm for which directors had training before, preparing for their local TV or radio station with a course entitled "meeting and handling the press" Now...better to call it "good luck" as the routes to publication are so numerous. There are ways to control these events and impacts. Review your terms and conditions of employment issued to staff. You will hopefully have clauses relating to company confidential data, so add clauses relating to .use of company name or company related activity on social media Legal Route. If the post if from someone who has left your company you may need to follow legal routes but review now your staff documentation, presented when staff leave. You may have non competition clauses (staff not going to a competitor in under 1 year) so consider other steps you can take to restrict commenting that may be too liberal, biased, revenge seeking. As we said earlier, they are also damaging their future hire prospects. Probably a fact well recognised that limits the number of legal cases regarding unfair dismissal. In these legal cases the claimant recognises a legal process could damage their career and potential to be hired....it takes time and uses lawyers....a post is done in seconds. Use technology to see when your company has been mentioned, tagged etc. Be responsive and speak to the author if they are still working with you - you may also consider speaking to one of their colleagues and or ask one of your colleagues to call them if you do not feel your call would be the best route, initially. Staff opinion surveys appear to have gone out of favour as questions always show a yes to would you like a higher salary!! But questions, well planned can be informative. IBM was one of the companies that provided a white box policy. These white boxes are alongside lifts and staff could post a note, without signing their name, to express a concern or grievance. Start an open door policy - encourage staff to speak to their managers if they have a concern. Create a rapport of appreciation - all part of team spirit but all the patterns you all know so well are just as important, perhaps even more important...as each member of staff has in effect a TV station under their keyboard. IF the keyboard is in your offices you have a right to control it. If it is at their home, an ex employee then your CEO may call you about it before you have seen the post yourself! Improving staff morale also helps profits - profits that can easily pay for monitoring the digital storm that could out there, starting right now, unless you have checked your processes for getting staff feedback inside your organisation. We can help you, not only by providing advice but also with clear recommendations, recruitment policies and terms of employment guidelines.