What started as a great way to chat to your mates (and waste time at work) has turned into a multi-million industry used by businesses to promote their brands.
The drunken college photos and tactless remarks published in the heat of the moment come back to bite . . . and suddenly people are saying “It’s private” about things they published to millions of people!.
Today people are talking about copyright, advertising codes and list ownership . . . and the old idea that somehow “cyberspace” or ‘social media’ was outside the legal channel is beginning to fade.
It’s just like when pop festivals went from being free to paid. The front line hippies move on to something else, and business moves in and turns the festival into something profitable, structured (and sometimes with better loos).
Years later, the same thing happened with raves. Though your mates might not remember what you did at Glastonbury or the local rave, the big problem with social media is that there’s a record that everyone can see years later.
Your ancient rant about the guy/girl who dumped you reads like a sexist polemic from a trainee stalker . . . and here you are applying for a role in a front line equal opportunity employer’s PR team – and there’s your rant still drifting about, fatally undermining your pitch for the dream job (now) that you had no idea you would ever be interested in (then).
Social media is growing up. It is still dynamic, exciting and fascinating to use for business and personal communication. But now a whole set of legal rules apply. From copyright, to slander, to harassment – the real world and the virtual world increasingly coincide and collide.
Business needs social media, and people who know how to use it. It is too late for corporates to ban social media in the workplace or from corporate communications. Even if you were to try to do this, or block access from company systems, people have it on their mobiles.
We constantly use social media – from Twitter, to Facebook to Googleplus and WordPress to LinkedIn and even Pinterest to promote our business and reach out to people who might want to work with us and think with us. How could we ban that? Why would we want to?
We need social media policies that help people realise the effect they are having, but allow them to do their job which will increasingly involve using it. We need bosses to understand the risks of social media and how to manage them.
For a great social media policy written by people who use it for people who use it click here.
Annabel Kaye is Managing Director of Irenicon Ltd, a specialist employment law consultancy.