Disconnect Between Volume of LinkedIn Users in Ireland and Companies' Social Media Policies

William Fry breakfast briefing explores the legal implications of Social Networking and companies are advised to implement social networking policies.

The use of social networking sites by companies and their employees was addressed at a forum this morning attended by over 130 business professionals. “Social networking sites have become the pillars of brand, communications and marketing policies of organisations across the world. Their unparalleled rise in popularity has resulted in the blurring of the lines between professional and personal usage. Ireland has the 2nd highest penetration of LinkedIn users in the world and companies need to ensure they have social media policies in place and communicated to avoid potential conflicts ” – said Boyce Shubotham, Head of Employment and Benefits at William Fry, this morning at a breakfast briefing, hosted by the firm, titled ‘Social Networking: A Web of Challenges’.

The event addressed the legal aspects of social networking including, what implications may face a company or employee if an employee posting brings the company into disrepute.  Guidelines on how a company can stay ahead of its competitors through the use of social media and networking and how to protect your company and clients were also discussed.

“One issue that is consistently raised is can an employer take action against an employee who posts a negative or disparaging comment on a site about a colleague or their employer. The answer is yes. But there are issues that need to be considered first. An employer needs to prove sufficient reputational damage in order to stand over disciplinary action or even dismissal. An employer’s response must be proportionate and this will very much depend upon the circumstances.” Mr Shubotham added.    

Guest speaker at the briefing, Peter Cosgrove, Director of Cpl Recruitment, said: “With over 1 billion tweets posted daily across the globe, Irish companies have had to embrace social networking to drive sales and promote their brands. Social media and networking helps to humanise your brand. You can’t control what people say online but companies can use social media and networking sites to better understand their customer base. Only 20% of people trust advertising whereas, 80% of people trust recommendations from their online network. The use of social networking can help grow your business, target new customers and improve your products or services. Before implementing social networking into a marketing plan, companies must be sure about what they want to say and who they want to target. Once that is agreed, it can be used positively and not become a catalyst for a publicity disaster.”

Commenting on what a company’s social networking policy should consist of, Catherine O’Flynn, an Associate at William Fry, said: “Many companies don’t have policies in place despite the high usage of social networking sites in Ireland. It is important for an employer to set out acceptable levels of usage by putting defined parameters in place. Set out what behaviour is deemed unacceptable. This would include disclosing confidential information, harassing or bullying or making discriminatory comments about employees or the company. It is also important to outline the different stages of your company’s disciplinary process and explain to employees that social networking usage will be monitored.”

This morning’s William Fry breakfast briefing was part of the firm’s Spring/Summer 12 Breakfast Briefing series. For information on further briefings, go to www.williamfry.ie

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