Social media risks in business.

Social media risks in business.

Talking about social media risks in business, I am reading from my beautiful little chart, that’s in my new book, “What is Intellectual Property?” which is about how to deal with that process. So what are the risks of social media in business? 

The first one is pretty obvious, bad reviews but to be honest, you can get bad reviews without social media, social media just makes it more accessible to people to review you. Remember, if somebody is putting up a review that is not honest, or you think is really unfair, you can complain to that social media platform. So a review on social media is actually quite good because you can take steps if you think it’s inappropriate, while reviews in other places are not so easy to counteract. 

There is a risk on social media of people going ahead with this excitement of naming and shaming. Often people will ask on social media, what should I do? Then people come on the bandwagon and tell you to name and shame. The problem with that is that naming and shaming is the reason you’re putting the information on the internet is to make sure that people think less highly of that person who your naming and shaming, which could amount to defamation. 

In some states, truth is a defense to defamation but not all states and not all countries, so I recommend you steer clear of naming and shaming. If you have a proper legal dispute, speak to a lawyer to take it further, but if you’d name and shame, you could end up being sued because you’re the one who might have defamed the other person. Also be careful of giving off the cuff or incorrect advice, so if somebody says, this person didn’t do my website well, what should I do? If you advise them to name and shame, then you could be responsible, if they follow your advice. 

So it’s tinting but try and avoid that kind of thing, especially if they follow your advice and then they suffer a loss, that could be problematic and could come back to bite you. So for example, if someone says, can I claim XYZ on my tax? It’s better to say, well, here’s a link to the ATO site that lists everything you can claim, rather than giving potentially incorrect advice. If you give the advice and the person gets it wrong and then they get fined, they could then say but I rely on your advice, and you didn’t tell me you weren’t an accountant, so be careful of that.

There’s also a risk on social media of employees tarnishing your reputation, what do I mean by this? When the Dreamworld tragedy happened and people were tragically killed on that roller coaster ride, obviously everybody was in shock and Dreamworld’s priority was to assure the public that their worlds were safe. Obviously didn’t look very good for them but they had an employee who started making very inappropriate comments and jokes about the tragedy that had happened. Of course, it reflected terribly on dreamworld in that difficult situation, the only way to really avoid that kind of thing is to have a social media policy that ensures that your employees agree not to use social media in a way that’s going to denigrate your business reputation. 

So that is quite important, because there are people out there who will make comments about things that aren’t appropriate, but they think it is funny regardless. So you do have that risk of employees tarnishing your reputation. There is also a risk of inadvertently giving away confidential information and trade secrets. I have seen this surprisingly where people think because they’re posting in a closed group, so the information is not gonna go any further. However, there’s no restrictions on the closed group. Then somebody in that closed group sees some useful information and then goes and uses it in their own business and the person who initially posted it is upset. 

Alternatively, you could have the situation where one of your employees innocently reveals, you’ve got a big book launch coming up and you were trying to keep that information confidential. So having policies and tight control of information can help you with that. The last one I wanted to cover, is inadvertent copyright infringement and that can take place in a number of ways. It can take place if you use somebody’s images from their sites. So if you copy something that you see on social media and then post it, that would likely amount to copyright infringement. 

So if you see a picture of a sunset and then you save that image and then post it as a fresh post, that amounts to copyright infringement. But if you use the social media platform way of sharing things on Facebook, that would be sharing the post you’ve seen but you haven’t reused it as though it’s your own original content, so your fine. If you’re sharing it, retweeting it, that kind of thing, that’s fine, but do not make a copy and then post it as though you’re the original poster. This actually happened to me once, when I answered some questions on a Facebook group and it was questions about intellectual property, then somebody copied my answers, and reposted them to another page. 

The problem that I had with that is, they didn’t say that this information came from me and my purpose of answering questions on Facebook is to raise my profile and this person was not doing that. They also didn’t have my permission, another issue was I had been answering questions and she had copied and pasted little bits of my comments, but without the original questions appearing in what she posted. So what ended up being posted was very different from the conversation that I had been involved in and anybody reading that could have misunderstood the information that was provided. 

So that taught me that other than very short answers to what people ask online, if somebody asked a serious question, I will upload a video about it on social media that people can share. Then I’ll know that the information came from me or I create a blog on my website and I send a link to my blog so people who want to read answers to that particular topic can click on the blog. In that copying situation, somebody else in the second group saw what had happened and let me know. She was quite concerned about how I was potentially going to deal with it, but all I did was I contacted the admin of that second group and explained the situation. I did it in a very calm and approachable, gracious way and that’s how my message came across. The admin was horrified and contacted the other lady, who confirmed she copied my original post, the admin removed the post immediately and I’ve never had the same kind of problem again. 

There was another case where two people had had an argument at work, Annie and Betty, the argument occurred at work and at the end of the day, Annie went home and unfriended Betty on Facebook. Betty was furious because now she couldn’t see what Annie was posting and she thought Annie was posting about her, when Annie was really just over it and wasn’t posting about her. Betty complained to her supervisor, who said that Facebook has nothing to do with work, that’s your private social media so I’m not gonna get involved.

Betty wasn’t happy so she took that complaint to Fair Work Australia and Fair Work Australia said the employer was responsible and the employer was at fault for allowing Annie to unfriend Betty after the argument, so the employer had to pay a fine of tens of thousands of dollars because they had allowed what was considered workplace bullying. So even though the unfriending event was on Annie’s private Facebook page, happened outside of working hours, the employer was found responsible.

So social media can be a little bit of a wild waste for business owners but if you know which kind of things to avoid, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be using it for your business. So if you’re a business owner, have social media policies for your staff, even for yourself such as for when you receive a bad review. With a bad review you suddenly get a rush of adrenaline and then you wanna shoot off at the mouth, instead have a policy for yourself, a little checklist. Personally, I don’t respond within 24 hours, give yourself time to calm down. Work on those policies and refine them as you go along, as you find things that don’t work or things that go wrong, then refine them so that they get better and better. 

There was one situation where my husband, who’s my business partner, needed to speak to somebody who was employed by my client, who he had never spoken with before, so he looked her up on social media to see who it is that he’s dealing with before he talks to her. He went onto her personal page, which contained very suggestive material and posts. I’m fairly confident that my client would not want that kind of thing associated with them. 

This person who my husband was gonna speak with had completed the about section on her Facebook page, including our client’s details as her employer. So it might be that one of the things you put in your social media policy is that if people are going to post things that don’t fit with your firm’s culture, then they don’t acknowledge that you are their employer on social media. So enjoy the social media jungle in your business. My name is Catheryn Warburton and I am the legal lioness.

Cathryn Warburton About the author

The Legal Lioness. Overcoming severe bullying as a child instilled in her a passion to protect others. As a skilled litigator, she indulges in her dream to push-back against business-bullies who target her clients. She is an international award-winning lawyer and patent attorney and 5-time published author. Cathryn bullet-proofs her client’s businesses and protects them like a mama lioness protecting her cubs. She makes sure that no business is left without access to affordable, easy-to-understand legal information. She does this through her books, proactive legal workshops and 1-2-1 legal services.