Employers should be alert to the dangers of Twitter

Your Questions Answered

I’ve recently set up a Twitter feed for my company and now have concerns that it could be misused by disgruntled employees. How can I ensure it is sufficiently protected? And what should I do if it is used inappropriately?Susan Doris-Obando, senior sssociate and barrister at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, says:

Many companies appreciate the value of social media including Twitter and are embracing this new and effective form of communication to enhance brand and business development. However, it is wise to be alert to the dangers it can bring and take steps to ensure responsible use.

You should develop a clear social media policy and communicate effectively to employees – by email and perhaps reinforced by training. The policy should make it clear that the Twitter feed is to be used for work purposes only and that it should not be used for personal messages and certainly not to harass or discriminate against anyone or disparage the company.

It should also outline that any breach of the policy will be taken extremely seriously and may result in disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal. Employees should be warned in the policy that their communications on Twitter may be monitored to ensure compliance with the policy.

This policy should be rigorously and consistently enforced – depending on the severity of any breaches, employees should be considered for appropriate disciplinary action. Disgruntled employees should be under no illusion that disparaging the company is a serious matter and may result in the loss of their job.

At crisis management points, highlighted by the embarrassment of HMV by an insider’s revealing tweets, managers must know how to close down accounts immediately.

Here, the application of the disciplinary process was clearly no deterrent. It is important that companies, particularly those in administration, consider issues in advance such as access to social media by those facing dismissal or otherwise with an axe to grind.Craig Elder, head of digital at Blue Rubicon, says:

Done properly, Twitter provides you with a fantastic opportunity to communicate directly with the people most important to any business – its customers. But, as you’ve already recognised, the wrong sort of tweets could quickly erode your reputation and cause long-lasting damage.

With that in mind, it’s surprising how many companies hand complete control of their social channels to relatively junior members of staff – and quite often they are the only ones who even know the password. This leaves those same companies at risk should any of those employees become dissatisfied and decide to use the company Twitter feed to vent their frustrations.

Luckily there are a number of practical steps you can take that will spare you and your company any potential embarrassment.

The first and most important step is ensuring that a member of senior staff retains overall control of the Twitter account and who can log in. Relatively cheap and easy-to-use tools (such as HootSuite) allow you to grant access to your Twitter account to multiple members of staff, each with their own usernames and passwords. Should you at any point need to revoke access, it’s a quick process.

Such tools also allow you to introduce a workflow, meaning that you can delegate responsibility for drafting tweets to more junior staff, while still ensuring that someone more senior will have to approve any content before it is posted. Again, this is a quick and easy process.

Third, create clear social media guidelines that you can distribute to anyone who will have access to the account. Cover what tone of voice is appropriate, how to respond to queries and what sort of content is right for your audience. Quite often setting clear expectations and offering useful guidance is the most effective measure you can take to prevent embarrassing tweeting.

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