Written by
Caroline Skipsey

Published
11 Jan 2016

Should your business adopt a social media policy?

11 Jan 2016 • by Caroline Skipsey

A new study exploring the blur of lines of personal and professional social media use has found that 35% of UK employees wouldn’t accept their managers as ‘friends’ on Facebook as ‘friends’. Arguably the most personal social media platform, 15% also said that they wouldn’t accept any work colleague as a friend on Facebook.

Looking at how companies regard employee social media use, the research also found that 39% of UK employees have read and follow their company’s social media policy, but 18% didn’t even know if their company have a social media policy.

The study, which surveyed over 1,000 UK employees in eight different sectors, found that 25% would think carefully before posting content or pictures on social media because of how it could affect theirs or someone else’s professional reputation. 

Results broken down by sector

Overall, the study highlighted some interesting statistics about how employees in different sectors use social media.

The finance sector were found to be the most judgemental of social media profiles, with 1 in 5 admitting that the social media profiles of interviewers or interviewees had changed their opinion of them. This sector was also found to be the most picky about who they accepted as ‘friends’ on Facebook, with 42% saying they would accept some colleagues, but not their manager. In good news for finance employers, the study found that 55% of finance employees follow their company’s social media policy.

In contrast to the finance sector, the property industry seemed the least concerned about social risk, with 31% admitting their company doesn’t even have a social media policy.

Those in the travel and leisure industry were found to be the least likely to allow their personal and professional social media lives to cross over, with 45% saying they wouldn’t accept colleagues as ‘friends’ on Facebook.

The marketing and advertising industry were found to be the most likely to merge personal and professional online lives, with 1 in 10 admitting they use their work email address to log into a personal social media account. 

The social media risk

The growth and influence of social media has created somewhat of an HR dilemma in recent years. Is it ok to discipline staff based on what they post on their personal social media accounts? Many companies have been reluctant to implement a social media policy because they’re unsure what’s acceptable to enforce.

There have been a number of high-profile cases where an employee has been dismissed in relation to something they’ve posted on social media, or a company has come under fire for their employees’ behaviour.

Case Study

In July 2012, two care home workers were suspended for posting a picture on Facebook which showed them mocking patients. The picture went viral and after being published by a local newspaper, the police, social services and Care Quality Commission became involved.

Because of one ill-judged Facebook post, the reputational damage to the Sussex-based care home was huge. So how could this situation have been avoided?

Had the care home in Sussex implemented a social media policy and employee security procedures beforehand, employees would have been clear about the boundaries of what they could and couldn’t post, and the consequences of breaching the guidelines.

Of course, companies cannot always protect themselves against what their employees post in their personal time, but this isn’t about control – it’s about guidance and taking steps to limit the risk.