#useitwisely

hugh james breakfast seminar

At the beginning of the month, we presented at the ‘Use it Wisely’ social media breakfast seminar hosted by Hugh James Solicitors.

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The seminar gave attendees the chance to learn about the benefits of using social media for businesses whilst also understanding the legal and compliance issues surrounding it, both inside and outside the workplace.

Call us biased, but we’d say it was an interesting seminar. With that in mind, we thought we’d take a quick recap and summarise some of the most important points.

why businesses should use social media

The first half of the seminar was presented by our Managing Director, Gareth, who looked at why businesses should use social media.

For the sake of nostalgia, Gareth took a brief trip down memory lane and reminisced about one of the first social networking sites, Friends Reunited. Launched in 2000, Friends Reunited was the brainchild of a couple who were curious to find out what their old classmates were up to. Quite the nifty idea, it unsurprisingly became hugely popular and profitable – so much so that ITV bought the site for £120m in 2005.

At its peak, Friends Reunited had over 15 million members, so it’s easy to see why social media is still such a huge success. From the big daddies like Facebook and Twitter, to the more niche and specified sites like Yik Yak and Ello, it was stressed that there is a social media platform for everyone; it’s just a case of finding the right social platforms to suit your business or industry.

Of course, it was unavoidable that we’d throw in a few statistics into the presentation as well. For example, did you know that on average, 6,000 Tweets are sent on Twitter every single second? Or that on 24th August 2015, Facebook had one billion active users in a single day for the first time in history? Yep, that means 1 in 7 people were using Facebook on that one day!

Given the amount of people that are active on social media, there’s no denying that it’s a great way to find potential customers. Consumers are turning to social media to research products/services and seek advice, which makes it an easy and cost-effective way to get your business in front of people and influence their decision making at an early stage.

It was stressed that just being on social media isn’t enough – you have to ensure you do it in the right way and that you’re dealing with any complaints or queries efficiently. According to recent research by Social Bakers, when Facebook fans post questions on groups, only 30% of them receive answers. Whilst this is bad news for those 70% of customers, it’s good news for business owners as it provides an opportunity to get ahead of the competition. Put simply, if you’re willing to engage with customers when your competition aren’t, then you’ll stand out from the crowd for all of the right reasons. An example of this used in the presentation was Nike’s @NikeSupport Twitter account.

As well as helping with customer management and brand awareness, social media helps with SEO (search engine optimisation). Not only does social media allow you to distribute your content and increase website traffic, it can also improve your search rankings in Google if you’re getting regular social shares. For example, the more retweets a blog receives, the more likely it is to rank higher in Google search results. Not many people realise that a company’s social sites can actually rank higher than a company website in Google search results. This is because Google loves social media and sees social sites as being authorities. And let’s face it; if it’s good enough for Google, it’s good enough for us!

Gareth’s overall evaluation was perfectly summed up by this image:

boat oar

use it wisely

The second half of the seminar was presented by Helen Iles and Emma Poole from the Hugh James Training department, and focused on how quickly the social media landscape is moving, and as such, why companies must seek to understand the risks associated with it.

The use of social media is anonymous, quick and easy. It provides users with a sense of freedom and power, and whilst this is normally a good thing, it does sadly get abused at times. Negative behaviours such as cyber-bullying, harassment, discrimination, hijacking of accounts and negative comments are becoming more and more common. A lot of people underestimate the power of social media. Once that ‘tweet’ or ‘post’ button is clicked, it doesn’t just evaporate into thin air; it can be mined, analysed and reviewed in civil and criminal cases.

Helen and Emma emphasised the fact that anything posted on social media can be used against you. A good example of this was given when Emma recapped the story of former business partners Matthew Firsht and Grant Raphael. For those who are unaware of the case, Grant Raphael used a fake Facebook profile to release the personal details of an old school friend, Matthew Firsht, as well as citing numerous allegations which were considered slanderous to Firsht’s character. The case ended up going to the High Court and Grant Raphael had to pay £22,000 in damages.

Whilst all of this information is truly eye opening, you might be wondering how this impacts employers. Are businesses responsible for the social media content of employees? Luckily, Hugh James had all the answers! As Helen went on to explain, the answer to this is pretty simple; employers are generally liable for the acts of their employees. The official term for this is Vicarious Liability. It essentially means that an employer may be vicariously liable for any act of the employee, which occurs during the course of employment, even if it’s done without the consent or approval of the employer. Also, just because the employee wasn’t physically at work at the time, this doesn’t necessarily absolve the employer of liability.

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The Data Protection Act 1998 also comes into play, and we could see things from the other side of the spectrum. Employees themselves also have rights which need protecting. As such, it was explained that if an employer is to retain data posted by employees on social media, then this counts as ‘processing’ an employee’s personal data. Therefore, it’s imperative that employers are careful about what information they store, how they store it, and the time period they keep it.

With all of these words of warnings and real life examples given, it was important to reiterate that social media is a great tool but at the same time, it must be used wisely. Whilst it’s not physically possible to prevent employees from expressing personal opinions on social media, it’s vital that employers make it clear what they consider to be inappropriate and what the consequences are if employees fail to comply with these. Employers should always have social media policies in place that employees should read and receive training on, ideally sign and most certainly abide by. Furthermore, the effects of such offences need to be made clear such as fines, expensive litigation and loss of reputation.

managing risks

After effectively exploring the risks of using social media and the best ways to manage these risks, the panel welcomed questions from the audience. A number of attendees also took to Twitter to share their opinions of the seminar and the issues covered using the hashtag #UseItWisely.

It comes down to this; social media can be a double-edged sword, and as such it needs to be handled with care. All pitfalls of social media must be taken into account at an early stage and every attempt must be made to minimise risk. In short, use social media, but use it wisely!


If you need any help with your social media strategy, then why not give us a call?

 

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