Thursday, 17 July 2008

Social media and reputation

Attended a really interesting session yesterday on social media and privacy issues, based around Ofcom’s new research into social networking (thanks to the PRCA for organising, and to Mat at Porter Novelli for hosting).

The Ofcom research confirms as fact what most people would instinctively know: young kids (many under the 13 age limit) compete for friends, teens and young adults dominate, none of us take privacy issues seriously enough, most people have profiles on more than one site, and so on. But as well as giving numbers, the research gives a really useful and interesting insight into the types of users of networks, and qualitative research into people’s attitudes towards communicating with each other over a social network.

This led to a broader discussion around social media and reputation management. Do most employees under 30 understand the implications of putting up dodgy photos of themselves on their Facebook page? Or that discussions (even between friends) on forums about their company can impact that company’s reputation? This is becoming a bigger and bigger issue for corporate reputation management and one that companies can’t ignore. Most companies will have contractual clauses saying that employees shouldn't bring the organisation into disrepute. But how many will have specific guidelines on social media and reputation? The risk of (probably inadvertent) damage by an employee on a social network, or forum is significant. And guarding against reputation damage is PR's remit. We should all start advising our clients on this, and fast.


Mat Morrison said...

We are very bad at seeing (or evaluating, to be more precise) the long-term impact of our short term decisions.

And no-one is very good at understanding that our private lives are increasingly becoming public content.

I think it's unfair to assume that staff in their twenties will be any better at realizing that the boundaries between business lives and social lives are now almost non-existent - and that they won't be coming back.

What we'll begin to see in the long term are behavioural changes that will compensate for this. At this stage, it would simply be speculation to make suggestions (although it's fun to imagine what they might be.)

In the meantime, while policies & training are an old-world way of addressing the problem, they're the best we have.

Perhaps we could encourage the staff who are going to be most affected by the policies (the under 30s?) to help develop the policy?

Incidentally - something's b0rked on your RSS feeds. For some reason, the click-throughs point to your old blog

Kate Hartley said...

Thanks Mat; interesting post. Agree re: the policy. I'm often surprised by how few people realise the boundraries between work and social life. Should (can?) a social media policy cover the period after an employee leaves a company? I see a lot of 'thank god I've left XX company' on various sites, and a list of company problems (see recent example of the guy who left Yahoo and twittered his way through the whole process, ending up on BBC online - Would be interested on legal view on this, as well.

Re: RSS feeds - for reasons too dull to go into, we've changed blog address so you'll need to update your RSS feeds to point to - let me know if that doesn't work.