The food and agricultural law firm has carried out a survey on ‘Social Media at Work’, with Pelican Communications, tracking the way food businesses use social media and how that has changed over the last few years.
26% of UK firms do not have a social media policy
It found the five biggest social media channels in businesses were Twitter; Linkedin; Facebook; YouTube and GooglePlus and 74% of companies had a social media policy but 26% did not.
Speaking at Foodex 2016, at The NEC, Birmingham, this week (April 18-20), Dannourah said it has seen an increase in the usage of social media, and company policies surrounding this have also risen year on year.
“It is important to have a policy in place as there can be negative outcomes on a grand scale like the #McDstories hashtag which was a promotional campaign which backfired when consumers shared fast food horror stories on Twitter,” he said.
“Also Tesco had to apologize over a post that read: ‘It’s sleepy time so we’re off to hit the 'hay',’ during the 2013 Horse meat scandal, as it was seen as inappropriate.
“Having a policy in place is about managing social media on a corporate level with some legal points to consider.”
Dannourah said businesses need to be aware of five main issues effecting internal and external policies; Employment/HR; Security; Brand Management; Social Media Policies.
Loss of productivity
As an example, he talked about loss of productivity and mentioned the social media phenomenom, ‘planking’ where people posed in a ‘plank’ position in an unusual location, some from work, and posted it on the internet.
“Whilst social media is instant if we add up the time of all those individual uses of it, it can add up, and becomes an issue for productivity,” he added.
“Leading on from there, it presents an opportunity for misconduct, disciplinary issues, bullying and harassment, third party conflict, confidential information and damage to reputation.
“There are plenty of cases emerging at tribunal court hearings where the lines between personal and professional life are blurred.
“With third parties, if you operate a social media account at work it will be inevitably run by employees. A policy needs to be drawn up to say how you manage and control issues online regarding customer relations and managing those contacts.
“A lot of companies use it as a way of contacting people, but companies need to look at the parameters for usage and who is doing what.”
More access to information
On a more positive note, Dannourah said with recruitment, social media opens up more access to information and can help to vet a potential candidate but beware of discrimination.
“If you are going to use it, be aware of deliberate or inadvertent discrimination, people need to be aware you will vet their social media accounts such as Linkedin or Facebook,” he said.
“Also firms need to look at brand management – how far does a bad tweet go? Can the damage be undone? What is the cost of that damage? There is a potential significant harm to the business if social media is used badly, companies need to be aware of this from the outset.”