Business owners were faced with a stark reminder about the potential dangers of social media, when Brisbane coffee entrepreneur Phillip di Bella stripped of his 2014 Business of the Year Award following an offensive and expletive-laden series of posts on his personal Facebook page around the second ‘State of Origin’ NRL game.

Telstra, sponsors of the highly coveted award, made the decision to withdraw Mr di Bella’s accolade shortly after.

A prominent Queensland businessman, named the Lord Mayor’s Corporate Citizen of the Year at the 2014 Australia Day awards, Mr di Bella was forced to answer for his actions publically.

“I’ve apologised publicly to my friends on Facebook, because my friends see my personal Facebook page, and if you follow me you know my passion – and if you don’t like what I have to put on there, you hit ‘unfriend’, that’s what Facebook is all about, Mr di Bella told Brisbane’s 4BC Radio.

Mr di Bella’s story is not unique – the internet is littered with case studies of improper social media use impacting negatively on a business.

New York-based law firm Proskauer, polled multinational companies from countries including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, India and the United States for their Social Media in the Workplace Around the World 3.0 study to find out how organisations kept abreast of how their employees used social media.

They received more than 110 responses from a broad range of businesses, many with a global presence.

These businesses revealed a number of notable findings and developments – nearly 90% of businesses now use social media for business purposes; and, as a result, social media misuse in the workplace has increased.

For the first time since first conducting their survey in 2011, Proskauer found that the majority of businesses have had to deal with social media misuse.

More than 70% of businesses reported having to take disciplinary action against employees for misuse (compared to 35% in 2011).

In the last year, businesses have focused on implementing and reviewing social media policies:

The number of businesses with policies has increased significantly, from 60% to nearly 80%. More than half of businesses have updated their policies in the last year.

In addition to implementing policies, businesses are now taking precautions to protect against specific risks associated with misuse of social media, such as:

  • Misuse of confidential information (80%)
  • Misrepresenting the views of the business (71%)
  • Inappropriate non-business use (67%)
  • Disparaging remarks about the business or employees (64%)
  • Harassment (64%)

Training employees reduces risks, yet, there has not been any significant increase in the number of businesses providing employees with training on appropriate use of social media.

The study also found that there has been an increase in the number of businesses taking measures to stop employees from using social media at work. They found that:

– 36% of employers actively block access to such sites, compared to 29% last year.
– 43% of businesses permit all of their employees to access social media sites, a fall of 10% since the last survey.

Sydney-based public relations firm CP Communications offer the following advice for people looking to engage with a wider audience over social media:

Social Media Etiquette

– Take a break before you post: If you are angry about something don’t jump straight on social media and tell the whole world about it. Take some time to cool down and consider if it’s even worth posting. The things you say in anger may not be how you really feel once you cool down. If you post something in anger you need to be prepared to handle the consequences and possible backlash.

– Consider the rules of the platform: Before posting anything understand the rules of the social media platform and ensure your posts conform to the accepted guidelines. Racist comments, nude photos or other people’s personal information are usually not allowed.

– Keep it professional: If you are a business or a person trying to build your professional profile then you need your social media to remain professional. Don’t post drunken photos or make disparaging comments that could bring a person or an entity into disrepute. You can still be conversational and personal with your posts but make sure they are appropriate.

– Show respect: If you treat other users of social media with respect you will be treated with respect in return. Social media is a communication tool to allow you to share discussions with people all over the world. To get the best results be respectful and ensure your comments aren’t offensive to anyone.

*We want to hear your stories! Had a good experience on social media? Seen a prime example of social media misuse? Let us know via our LinkedIn and Twitter pages!

Equip yourself with the skills you need to run a successful business, including specific franchise marketing, with our Business Management Essentials Online Course. Click Here to learn more.