Social Media – Friend or Foe?

Social Media – Friend or Foe?

While Social Media has become a great tool for marketing departments, it can be a headache for Human resources. The risk of people posting content that defames and damages the reputation of your organisation is ever present. There are direct and indirect consequences to what your team publish to the world.

“The good thing about Social Media is that it gives everyone a voice. The bad thing about Social Media is that it gives everyone a voice.” – Unknown

The high profile cases in our recent history of Penny Sparrow and Adam Catzavelos brought the name of their employers (and former employers) into the limelight for unsavoury reasons.

Speaking at the HR forum hosted by the Durban Chamber of Commerce, Verlie Oosthuizen, the Head of Social Media Law at Shepstone & Wylie, highlights why people think they have the right to post absolutely anything on Social Media.

The common reasons people give are;

  1. It’s my freedom of speech
  2. My privacy
  3. Outside of working hours on my own device


To say that you have an absolute right to post anything you want is incorrect. The source of this misconception is that people see high profile people posting this type of content and think it is OK to do so themselves.

There are two problems with this;

  1. The freedom of speech laws in other countries are not the same in South Africa
  2. The Social Media policies of other businesses (and political parties) are not the same as for your employer.

Understand the Impact


Verlie also raised the point that people often don’t understand the impact Social Media can have. A post that goes viral is no longer under the control of the author. One has to be wary of what is shared on all the platforms.

It is advised to have a Social media policy in place for all to know and understand. The rules of engagement on Social Media are the same as in real life. Misconduct online, or offline can be treated the same whether the policy is clear or not. The misconduct can be more complicated to enforce without a policy.

Your policy can encourage the use of Social Media as a tool or even allow team members who want to be influencers to assist with marketing the business. However, you will need to be clear on who owns the connections in these instances.

It is also a good idea at the exit interview stage to ask outgoing employees to change their social profiles accordingly.

Social media cannot be ignored. It is now the expected norm that everyone has a social account of some form. A great Social Media policy will help your employees stay out of trouble and, by association, you and the entire organisation.

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