Small Business Management: Should you Look at Employee’s Social Media?

by / Monday, 09 June 2014 / Published in Small Business Hiring

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The wide potential reach of content that is put up on social media can be something of a double edged sword for small business owners. On the one hand, it can trumpet their success far beyond what was possible before the advent of the internet age, but on the other it creates many more opportunities for negative attention in the form of bad reviews, posts that have unintended consequences and also employees misrepresenting their brand. It is the latter issue that has many business owners worried enough to check on their employees social media accounts, or even screen using social media before making a hiring decision. Depending on the type of position that the employee would be occupying, there are different levels of what constitutes appropriate behavior, but in general business owners should take steps to prevent inappropriate social media activity provided that it reflects poorly on their brand.

Having a social media policy in place that is clearly understood and fairly defined can help control inappropriate posting. The rules that you apply to posting on behalf of your brand are one thing, while the behavior of your employees on their private accounts are another. Still, there should be an understanding that your employees represent your brand, and therefore should not be posting content that has the potential to reflect poorly on it. A social media agreement that they all sign is becoming standard practice in many offices, and deviation from the terms of the agreement is grounds for disciplinary action commensurate with the gravity of the offence. Like many potential issues that can arise, business owners are better off being proactive if they perceive issues reflected in their employee’s social media, and speak with them one on one before taking dramatic action unless the situation is clearly out of control.

What should you look for on social media when hiring an employee? For one thing, you will immediately be able to tell whether or not the employees have privacy filters on their profiles. Encouraging your employees to use privacy settings that restrict their posting is not necessary if they are following the terms of your social media agreement, but it can help to make them aware of these options during a social media training session, as some may not even realize the broad reach that their posts have. A major issue with social media is that people can become comfortable posting within their social circles to the point that they forget that everything they have written is visible to whoever cares to look at it. When reviewing a social media account, look for the following major signs of potential issues:

  • Open drug use. If your employees are posting images of drug use, regardless of your personal stance on the issue, you have to consider the fact that it is a sign of poor judgement to post illegal activity on an open forum. It is possible that they may not perceive the issues that this can cause, which in and of itself is an issue waiting to happen.
  • Recklessly dangerous behavior. Like drug use, if a person is making a show of their lack of judgement regarding their safety and that of those around them, it is an indicator that they may not fully appreciate the consequences of their actions. A major part of being a responsible employee is having a sense of accountability. Demonstrating that they don’t care what happens when they act in a clearly dangerous way should make you question their ability to be responsible in a business setting.
  • Bigoted language or hate-speech. With the wide reach of the internet, a small business simply cannot afford to take the risk of employing a bigoted employee. If you see racist or otherwise hateful language being posted on an employee’s social media accounts, as a business owner you should seriously consider the potential liability they pose to your business. Getting sued because of discrimination on the part of an employee is just not worth it.
  • Criminal activity. If a potential hire is committing crimes, that is already less than ideal. If they are posting about committing crimes on social media, then it’s pretty much a no-brainer that you shouldn’t hire them. Again, the main issue is liability that your business would be taking on, but the fact that the individual is not able to appreciate the issues caused by posting criminal activity on the internet is another major strike against them.

Photo Credit to Rosaura Ochoa on Flickr

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