Don’t stick your head in the sand when it comes to taking control of social media in your practice. It’s time to minimise risks and avoid negative branding.

Social media is the most powerful tool for sharing information and it’s become an undeniably crucial tool in building a modern-day brand and reaching an audience of unprecedented breadth. But it’s crucial that you understand the risks of social media, because they could easily outweigh the benefits.

Where you once used to leave work and have your private life to yourself, for many, that private life is now published online. In the good old days once you took off your uniform your day was finished, however now the lines are more blurred than ever.

Your brand is no longer physical but it is now very much virtual, and with social media anchoring the change in the sharing of information, what your employees share can matter. But how can you protect your practice from after- hour problems?

According to a US survey conducted by Mindflash and Column Five, 44 percent of companies surveyed said that they had policies in place for use of social media that covered use both in and out of the workplace. Further to this, less than half the businesses in the survey said that they gave access to social media for all employees.

However, to what extent can you control employee behaviour after hours? While it is not possible to control what someone says in private, you should be aware of whether or not the employee is sharing information that reflects well on the company, or if they are negatively branding your company. These are things that could potentially have a negative effect on your reputation and business.

It can become quite complicated and confusing for employers as to where the line must be drawn between private and public life, especially in relation to what can be one to control damaging behaviour.

Pre-emptive measures

Although you, as an employer, are typically not in control of the use of social media yourself, you can control the conduct of your employees during work hours by implementing simple and effective measures that can offer beneficial results in the long run. Ensuring that your business has a regulated and managed social media policy enables employees to be aware of the guidelines and their limits.

Without such pre-emptive measures, employers can often be subject to time-consuming and costly legal disputes.

Implement a social media policy

All employees should be aware of their responsibilities around using social media in their professional (and personal) capacity. Creating, implementing and enforcing a social media policy can help minimise any potential risks. Generating an environment in the workplace of policy awareness and acceptable social media use will help ensure everyone clearly understands the boundaries.

A large proportion of companies also have policies that cover the use of social networks outside of the workplace, however this is a difficult reality for many people.

So how far can policing go? Recent Fair Work Commission and Federal Circuit Court decisions reflect an acceptance that employees have an increasingly sophisticated understanding of social media which their workplace behaviour ought reflect. Whilst each incident of social media misuse turns on its own facts, employers with comprehensive, well- communicated and up-to-date social media policies are best positioned to hold employees accountable for their actions and defend legal claims such as unfair dismissals.

Encouraging loyalty

At the heart of every business are its employees. Employers typically will do just enough to ensure their employees don’t leave – including training, offering benefits, and providing some positive reinforcement. But is there more you can be doing to ensure loyalty?

Show employees that you value them by encouraging loyalty through good pay and respect. Emotionally connected employees are the best employees because not only are they are engaged and productive but they also feel validated and appreciated. Employees who are loyal to a company are less likely to engage in negative behaviour, both on and off social media.

Hiring criteria

Employers should minimise risk and uncertainty by incorporating terms relating to social media into employment contracts. You are best advised to create individualised policies that properly balance your employees’ rights to privacy and your right to protect your reputation and brand.

If the correct measures are in place and your employees are aware of what is expected of them, you can rest a little easier knowing your practice may be protected from after-hour problems and prevent potentially damaging behaviour.

Doctors using social mediaSocial-media

Social media has becoming an increasingly pivotal tool for practitioners to not only attract new patients but to educate consumers on health-related issues.

Forbes magazine recently revealed that nearly 70 percent of all patients “consult” the Internet either before or after a doctor’s visit. US cardiologist Dr Kevin Campbell says, “Medicine is still about, and should be about, caring for patients and patient-centred activity.” However he highlights that consumerism is now important in medicine.

“Doctors need to set themselves apart from other physicians or healthcare groups, possibly by using social media,” he said.

Recent social media boo-boos

It is true that with freedom comes responsibility, however this duty can easily be breached.

A recent social media dispute was that of sacked SBS journalist Scott McIntyre, who tweeted offensive statements about ANZACS and Australia. The soccer reporter’s solicitors applied to set aside the sacking on the grounds that SBS had breached the Fair Work Act by discriminating against McIntyre’s political opinions. McIntyre’s case is now before the courts after a tribunal rejected the broadcaster’s bid to block his unfair dismissal case.

Another controversial slip-up was that of PR executive Justine Sacco, who was sacked following the furore her racist and insensitive tweet caused after it went viral. Sacco was the head PR representative of IAC, responsible for websites such as Vimeo, OkCupid and Tinder. IAC slammed their employee’s behaviour as ‘outrageous’ and said they would take appropriate action’, confirming they ‘parted ways with the employee in question.’

Previous articlePfizer, Allergan confirm US$160 billion merger deal
Next articleThe gift of the gab