An increasing percentage of employees are logging in to social media networks like Facebook, and Twitter according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. But it’s not all for personal reasons; many staff are using social media on the job for work-related purposes, the study found. For example, some companies have included it in their social media policies that employees should use these channels for professional purposes to promote their brand and develop business relationships. On the other hand, they are also being used in a private capacity by employees during and after their workday.
There are many issues to consider when taking to the social web as an employee, one of them is a rule of thumb surrounding your digital footprint which is “Think before you post”. Your digital footprint is defined as a trail you leave online, this can be generated through digital sources like search engines, uploading videos and photos, social media posts and other forms of information. Photos that your friends tag you in can also leave a permanent trail for potential employers to find.
Many South African citizens believe that their right to freedom of expression is protected in terms of our Constitution, but they may not be fully aware those rights exclude advocacy of hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion, and anything that constitutes incitement to cause harm. This can be particularly important to consider when it comes to issues like posting harmful content against an employer, a fellow employee, customer or other related individuals. These can be legally pursued by the employer which could lead to dismissal or legal prosecution. Privacy and confidentiality are also crucial to consider when sharing content about your job, for example, a nurse taking a photo of a patient then posting it online is in direct violation of the privacy laws that govern a hospital in South Africa. In the spur of the moment, a snapshot of that new work contract can also land you in hot water if there are confidentiality clauses. Remember, once you post, it won’t be easy to take it back, especially if it was shared by your friends and went viral.
Further to this, use of social media for personal reasons during work hours can constitute an infringement against the company’s workplace policies, whilst future employers are also taking steps to review social media profiles of job candidates and basing their hiring decisions upon that. Practising good digital citizenship is imperative to ensure your reputation is upheld as a working professional.
An article in the Labour Guide of South Africa lists the following guidelines as useful to both an employer and employee:
Employees using social media for official purposes should be aware of the following:
-The approved social media sites may only be used for official purposes.
-The message that the company wants to bring across to other users must be clearly defined.
-Postings must be kept legal, ethical and respectful.
-Employees may not engage in online communication activities which could bring the company into disrepute.
-Personal details of employees may not be disclosed.
-Confidential information may not be disclosed.
-Copyright laws must be adhered to.
-Only the official approved logo of the company may be used.
-The information that is published must be accurate and not confidential.
-Statements to the media must first be approved by the employer.
Guidelines on the policy for employees using social media for non-business purposes:
-Be clear on the use of company equipment or access to such sites and when this may be done.
-Remind employees that internet and email communication may be monitored and intercepted as per the electronic communications policy of the employer.
-Company information must be kept confidential.
-The company name or logo may not be used on private profiles.
-Colleagues, managers or information pertaining to the company may not be discussed on such platforms.
-Employees must be advised to block access to their profiles for other users that they do not know.
-The code of conduct of the company must be respected and considered as the guiding rule. Explain the consequences of failing to adhere to the social media policy of the company.
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