Social media offers new strategies that can help raise a company’s business presence. Blogs and similar media present a unique opportunity to put a positive image of a business into the public domain, getting it right can bring about huge benefits for your company, however, get it wrong and it has the potential to drive away your customers.
Have a look at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaNuE3DsJHM. Social media, in this case YouTube, must have heavily influenced the public’s perception of Domino’s Pizza. Will you be ordering pizza from Domino’s tonight?
There is a growing body of case law in the employment tribunals surrounding disputes that have arisen between companies and their employees due to the use of blogs, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and comparable platforms.
See below some recent tribunal decisions in relation to Facebook…..
Asda Stores found themselves in trouble when a manager took to Facebook to declare it would make her happy to hit customers on the back of the head with a “pic axe” (sic). Asda, perhaps understandably, viewed the comments quite seriously – the comment had been made in the public domain and it hardly reflected the tone it wanted to hit (excuse the pun) in relation to customer service. Asda dismissed the manager summarily for gross misconduct. However, Asda later lost a claim for unfair dismissal brought by the employee.
In contrast, when Apple faced a claim from an employee, after they were dismissed summarily for making critical comments on Facebook about the company and its products, they were able to successfully defend it.
Mr Crisp, the former Apple employee, posted comments such as “jesusPhone” and “tomorrow is just another day that hopefully I will forget”. The latter posted a day before Apple used the tagline of “Tomorrow is another day. That you’ll never forget” in advance of the Beatles’ music being available on iTunes.
So why were Asda and Apple treated differently by the employment tribunals??
Well…Asda couldn’t successfully defend the claim because the employee’s conduct fell into the “misconduct” category (rather than gross misconduct) of the examples given in Asda’s own internet policy – and the policy failed to say that such conduct would be viewed more seriously if it concerned a manager (although that was their later argument).
But in Apple’s case, the tribunal was persuaded by how clear it had been about its “core value” being the protection of its image – Apple had hammered this home (again, excuse the pun) to employees in all its policies and training material.
These disputes show the importance of training your staff to guide them on the use of social media as well as having regularly updated social media policies in place. Your policies should be aligned to the direction your business is taking, or you might find it difficult to take the appropriate disciplinary action against employees without repeating Asda’s mistakes.
Christopher Sing is a partner in the Employment Team of the law firm Freeth Cartwright LLP http://www.freethcartwright.co.uk/person/Christopher-sing