4 Unsung Social Media Misfires

cat-bagI’m not going to tell you about Justin Sacco, Dominos or @BPGlobalPR.  But before I do let my 4 unsung social media misfires out of the bag, let me tell you why you should pay attention.

As the CEO of a company that specialize in social media ethics, privacy and security training for employees, I’m always on the prowl for examples of why organizations should certify employees in social media compliance.

In my world, the type of high-profile failures that make mainstream news and those that echo through the social media marketing bubble are often dismissed as the rightful comeuppance of clueless users. “They should have known better” and “We’d never do that,” are the usual responses.

But the truth is, it happens all the time. I see and tweet about it daily because. It’s part of my job. You just never hear about it. That’s why I’m writing this post.

I want to share some smaller — but no less damaging — social media gaffes that robbed employers of profits and productivity.  These are the unsung social media misfires.

After your read them, I’m pretty sure you’ll agree that expecting employees to use “common sense” is a naive social media compliance strategy. These examples could happen to anyone, no matter how social media savvy their employees may be.

The big unchecked risk is non-compliance.  Not so much non-compliance among social media specialist, but among the rest of the employees.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be in a regulated industry to get fined for social media misuse.  Whether your organization is regulated by FINRA, HIPAA or the SEC , there are still some baseline compliance requirements you should satisfy if your employees use social media at work.

And according to new research, half of them do.

US-based organizations are responsible for complying with dozens of rules and regulations that impact how you can and can’t use social media at work.  For instance, you’re not allowed to defame someone or something’s reputation (which is easier to do online than you might think), discriminate on the basis of age, race of religion (which is also easier to do online than you think), sexually harass someone (you’d be surprised how often it happens) scrape or steal information off the web unlawfully (ditto) or restrict employees from saying bad things about you (if they’re doing it to improve their working conditions, it’s their legal right).
What are the potential costs of ignoring your social media compliance obligations? If you’re a big organization, they could significantly hinder quarterly earnings. If you’re a small organization, they could but you out of business.

So here we go.  These are 4 social media misfires you’ve probably never heard of:

  1. Fired Open Communications employee files sexual harassment claim against employers for “bang sesh” text from co-worker.
  2. Incapacitated social media specialist sues employer for accessing client accounts she managed through her personal profile during her absence.
  3. Expert Global Solutions fined $3.2 million for data collection violations.
  4. Legacy Learning was fined $250,000 for buying “fake” testimonials from affiliate resellers online.

Whether it’s face-to-face or on social media, employers are supposed to treat employee conduct the same. The challenge is that many employees believe they have a right to free speech online that excuses them from their compliance responsibilities. And it’s true, we do have certain rights to say and do what we want, but not without facing the consequences. It’s also true that if employers don;t invest the time to teach employees what they can and can’t do, regulating their behavior is much trickier, because they haven’t laid down guidelines.

Social media policy won’t work. Because too few read corporate policy. And you can’t comply with a policy you don’t understand. The only sustainable strategy for managing social media is risk is compliance, ethics, privacy and security training and certification.

So be honest. Had you heard of any of these social media misfires before you clicked or did the post deliver on your expectations?