The dark side of Social Media

Many companies are adopting social media technologies to engage in the new communication paradigm that enables businesses be more in touch with their customers while marketing and selling on a new platform.  However many of these companies rapidly take on social media within the business to stay afloat in the wake of the digital age and do not appoint a social media coordinator and/or lack guidelines on social media use within the organization.

It’s not uncommon for an employee to Tweet or post of Facebook “I hate my boss, my job sucks” and with that tweet being linked to you and consequently your place of work, your boss finding out and dismissing you is sure to follow.

By not having a social media policy, businesses are opening themselves up to legal risks such as release of confidential information, wrongful dismissal cases technology risks, and reputation risks.  These are all too common issues with the ever-growing trend of employees abusing social media on the job to the detriment of the brand, such as the employee in Burger King who posted a photo of himself lying on the stock buns or Taco Bell incident.

It’s essential old laws for new media and often the company needs to take action into their own hands to monitor social media activity from their employees and from third parties. As Daniel Handman of employment law firm Hirschfeld Kraemer LLP told Bloomberg Law,

“social media policies are now just as necessary for employers as discrimination, leave, and vacation policies.”

So a lot of companies embrace the use of social media but their strategies often exclude risk assessment and management.

Everyone will be familiar with Domino’s, the international franchise pizza corporation. Over the last few years they have heavily taken on social media as a way to market and communicate to the masses. Dominos Australia, they have embraced new media campaigns  and developed new strategies around social media including mass collaboration for product development. However, one major disadvantage of social technologies in a business context is the legal risks that occur from the thin line between personal and business lives, negative publicity, and incorrect information damaging the company.  I will discuss some the legal risks that social media introduces that are relevant to this Dominos.

Employment: Wrongful Dismissal

For most, working at Dominos is generally a temporary gig rather than a career path and many see that line of work to be a way to get money rather than genuinely loving the work. As the majority employees being young and social media savvy, it’s not uncommon for dissatisfaction and complaints about working life to spread from talk among friends to being posted on their personal Facebook or Twitter accounts. Often friends or followers may include colleagues, which means that your higher ups can see your complaints and promptly fire you.  Not a good situation to be in for either party.

Statutory Risk: Defamation

Domino’s have a Facebook  page where they are able to use the ‘Facebooks apps’ to promote deals, show locations, and quick link to the website. They are able to post to their feed to ask questions,  start a discussion, get feedback, and post photos that will appear in the feeds of people who like the page, which acts as a  great marketing tool.  However while having a Facebook wall and Twitter feed to promote deals and develop customer relationships on the cheap may seem fantastic, Dominos have opened the gate to two-way communication, which comes with the risk of negative criticism for all to see.  With a level of anonymity that social media provides (particularly with blogs) people feel protected and enabled to post offensive and often untrue things.  Say a massive fan of Pizza Hut wanted to defame Domono’s, they just have to post about their made up account of ‘terrible service’ or bugs in their food on Facebook to cause a stir up and slander the Domono’s brand which false allegations. This is particularly relevant because it’s difficult to disprove and would be common in an industry with direct competitors. Sure you can delete it, but hundreds of fans would see it first and then the damage is done.

Reputation risks

One of the major benefits of social media is to develop a positive reputation on an open global platform.  But it’s a double-edged sword as discussion of the brand is a two way street and enables frustrated customers to vent and spread damaging comments on any of the available social networks for all to see.  Dominos is my go to pizza place so I have had both good service and bad service.  But if I decided to post about a negative experience on Dominos’ Facebook wall, then everyone can see it which may harm the reputation of the company.  This has in fact happened when Domino’s requested feedback on social media platforms and received a lot of negative reviews like the ‘crust tastes like cardboard‘.  This when Domino’s launched a campaign to changed the recipe for their crust referred to as the ‘Turnaround campaign’ which was to recover their reputation. But even though it was mostly a success, people developed a Facebook group called “The New Domino’s Pizza Still Sucks”, which still allowed negative press to float around in cyber space.

Domino’s have an actual example of their reputation being given a heavy blow by having two Domino’s employees posting a video of themselves performing quite…repulsive acts on food.  You might have seen this story as major issues like this have a tendency to go viral and it’s discussed as  a prime example of social media’s negative impact.  Apparently it was a prank and the food was never delivered, but that didn’t stop a major backlash against the brand.  The workers were promptly fired but there were no guidelines regarding posting content.  So the brand has been harmed and the former employees are out of a job (with a felony warrant against them) so it’s a lose/lose situation.  You can watch the video below, but I’d advise to not be eating at the time.

So what should Dominos do to prevent a lot of the aforementioned risks?  I read through the following sources (which are a good read) to get an idea of what could be put in place:

As previously mentioned, a social media policy should be put in place to address the various potential risks by doing the following:

  • Discussing in detail how much use is excessive doing work hours and exactly what kinds of comments involving the company are worth dismissal. Be clear about the consequences of your employee’s actions online.
  • Designate a company spokesperson for addressing questions on social media
  • Having management monitor the various social platforms for defamatory content to either delete or address
  • Detail a strategy for how to deal with a social media crisis similar to the Domino’s viral video
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2 thoughts on “The dark side of Social Media

  1. themandee says:

    Great article, Brant.
    This really helped me understand social media risks better.
    Perhaps those businesses could learn from this.

  2. xavier1610 says:

    Good post, keep up the good work, I liked the use of vidoes and imagery as well as hyperlinks. One tip though, maybe add a few more tags next time you post and hopefully you can try and get a wider audience outside of the 346 class 😛 it worked for me.

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