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Social media and work: tips and training

Facebook, Twitter and all the other social media sites are changing our lives: keeping in touch with friends and relatives around the world, making new friends with shared interests and communicating quickly about whatever seizes the imagination.

The ripple effects include huge changes for employers, both good and bad. It’s easy for companies to increase their visibility by plugging away on social media sites but there are risks too, such as irritating people with messages that are corny, overly pushy or in bad taste.

Sometimes companies find themselves at the centre of attention over messages posted by employees. There are numerous examples when people have posted their thoughts on social media sites, forgetting that anyone can see them and that people might criticise their employer for “allowing” that to happen.

There are countless examples of people losing their jobs after posting publicly on social media sites including the stockbroker who tweeted about hitting a cyclist, the well-known retail store worker who moaned about the “shambles” at work after returning from holiday, police officers sacked for insulting each other or the public and the communications director who tweeted before getting on a flight: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” She landed, discovered the whole world was angry with her and then lost her job.

The risk is that employees forget that sharing their thoughts about work is seen by strangers and not just their friends. That risk’s enhanced if they are posting after a bad day, when they are tired and possibly a little drunk. The risks for employers include feeling they have to “do something” when the situation has attracted noisy attention and outrage – being at the centre of a Twitterstorm can be unpleasant and disorientating.

Brighton and Hove Chamber of Commerce is offering a two-hour training course for employers on social media on Tuesday (8th September), run by Brian Warren and Melissa Mills from Quick HR. The course provides advice and guidance on handling difficult situations as well as using social media sites for recruitment.

The first section will cover ways to use various social media sites to promote vacancies and attract candidates, as well as guidance about screening candidates for roles by reviewing their social media presences and deciding what’s relevant and what’s private. The training will include tips and advice about using all kinds of different social media sites for recruitment.

The second section will help managers deal with negative social media attention: what to do if employees criticises you or the company on Twitter or anywhere else, or if they deliberately or inadvertently attracts attention by posting something controversial on social media sites and the backlash engulfs their employer too.

For now, here are two tips for employees to avoid problems: it’s not “private” if your account’s public or you name your employer in the bio and if you really want to post about work on Facebook then unfriend your work colleagues. The overwhelming majority of complaints about comments on social media happen when you’ve forgotten that your colleagues and maybe your manager can see what you’re saying. But if you really have to say “I hate my job” without it backfiring, say it to your friends and not on social media.

For more details about the training, visit http://www.businessinbrighton.org.uk/event/bite-sized-learning-social-media-employers.