[Updated July 21st 2014]
Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and many other social media platforms are invaluable for building contacts, networking and promotion. There is little doubt about that. However it is a double edged sword. The lay man is suddenly empowered to speak out against poor service, employees are often spotted ranting about their bosses and media gurus are finding themselves embroiled in battle of words via social media platforms. If you are a working professional or involved in a business environment in India Inc, here is what you should remember before posting on social media.
Let feedback be constructive instead of negative
Sounding negative immediately rings bells in organizations and their branding folks generally go into overdrive to play off bad publicity. So if you want to raise an issue against a company or an organization on their social media page, you should aim to give constructive feedback rather than negative rants. Just because you have the power to publish, does not make you any less liable for the things you say.
Employees take note: Adhere to your company guidelines
Internal enterprise social media and social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have become very easy ways for employees to vent out either their anger against their bosses or how bad a day it was at work because of an irate client. Are you guilty of doing this too? From clauses in your employee contract to responsibility towards the company brand image and from confidentiality to matters pertaining to IPR, you could be violating a string of guidelines by ranting on social media. As an employee, it is in your best interest to refrain from posting comments or taking part in discussions about work or company on social media platforms, even if you think that you are trying to salvage your employer’s reputation. Leave it to the experts. So to play safe, read and remember the guidelines from your employee handbook and if you don’t have access to one, go speak to an HR personnel in your company.
Think before you speak? Think before you post!
While philosophers and management gurus have always said “Think before you speak” maybe the 21st century calls for new advice, “Think before you post“. One bad rant from your profile could very well be the next big viral meme and that’s exactly why you should think before you tweet or post a comment on any other social networking site. What may seem like a fun comment or a jovial jibe may very well work against you professionally, or otherwise.
Defamation can cause monetary damage
Even if you forget about ethical codes, company guidelines and being politically correct for a moment, there is still the possibility of facing lawsuits and fines if you post defamatory posts online. What if your employer took you to court just for a silly rant? What if your competitor sued you for a defamatory comment? What if your seemingly innocent tweet was in fact a clear violation of your contract? These are the questions that you should be thinking about as a working professional. You may be facing heavy fines or serving a term in jail up to three years, under the Indian Penal Code and laws governing information technology. Case in point being Suhel Seth, marketing and media personality who was asked to pay Rs. 200 crore in damages by ITC for defamatory comments on Twitter. Below is what some of the industry heavyweights have to say.
“In fact, the damage from social media defamation can be higher since the medium is instantaneous, viral and more potent than traditional media” – Pawan Duggal, a lawyer who specializes in cyber law and practices in the Supreme Court. “Defamation in traditional media would make the author, editor and publisher equally responsible whereas in social media the entire burden is on the author.” – Sajan Poovayya, Managing Partner, Poovayya & Co, a legal firm that specializes in internet litigation [Source]
Put everything against the context of time
Facebook has come out all guns blazing with its new feature, the timeline. While that may make for good entertainment and a cool way to go back to a user’s past on the social networking site, it also means that what you post on Facebook and the things you are ‘tagged’ in, is there to stay. It is as if you have a virtual life. And just like things in real life, things that you say and post may come back to haunt you later. What if a post that you made a few years back interferes with the image that you want to build as a high flying company executive that you may have become today? Are the things that you post online susceptible to misinterpretation over time? These are some of the questions you want to think about before you post online. Putting everything against the backdrop of time will instantly guide you to the right path of using social media. After all, you don’t want Google to throw up embarrassing posts that you made many years back on the first page if your potential new employer decides to do a virtual background check on you, do you? In this regard, Mr. Elango R, HR Officer, MphasiS has the apt last word, “You’ve got to remember that there’s no expiry date.”