This article by Kate Hodgkiss about avoiding Social Media Lawsuits provides some common sense advice for companies navigating the potential pitfalls of what their employees say on Facebook, Twitter et al. Another one I read was by Stacy Gulik titled “Think Before You Tweet: Risks Health Care Professionals Face With Social Media”. She talks about the risks that Doctors (and others) face when tweeting about medical information or their profession in general. Then there was this spoliation charge of $700,000 for the destruction of Facebook pages.
Virtually every business in the world should be concerned about what their employees are tweeting about or posting on Facebook as it relates to their business. And the litigation is certainly heating up.
I used to say to my employees “don’t write in an email what you don’t want your boss to read or what you would not want to be read back to you in court”. Well the same is becoming true of social media. Companies have to deal with social media whether they like it or not – with about a billion Facebook users, I think its a fair guess to say social media is here to stay and is rapidly infusing corporate life. From the Medical Doctor who blogs about “her day in the office” to the disgruntled employee who Facebook’s a picture of his company’s “crappy working conditions”.
This is not to say that we have to come up with brand new answers to these issues. Just like when office email first arrived, employees needed training and guidance – eg “never send an email when you are angry, or sleep on it”. What is different is that the current generation of employees has been brought up in a world of “one to everyone”, instant communications. When we hit the post or publish button, it’s gone instantly. There is no permanently delete button. And the message did not just go to internal employees, it went to the world. Someone has likely read it and saved a copy of what was said, before the individual has had a chance to erase the “mistake”.
Clearly for some companies this is a bigger concern than it is for others and every company will embrace social media slightly differently. Because the root of what we do at Catelas is about people and their relationships, how people are interacting on social media is of huge interest to us. Just as it is not possible to collect and review every document in a litigation case today, the proverbial haystack has just become exponentially larger with social media. It is never going to be practical to collect and review everything posted on the social media. But if you can quickly isolate the people involved and limit the search to only those people that are relevant, then following their social media footprints, has just become a whole lot easier. Of course good corporate policies and employee education never hurts.
How is your company or your clients handling what its employees are saying on social media?