Did your mother ever tell you to think before you speak? Have your friends told you to wait a few minutes before sending a heated message to a significant other? How about your teachers telling you to watch what you put on the Internet? You should heed this last piece of advice because our words have a way of coming back to bite us. Once you post something on the Internet, it’s out there for the whole world to see. And unlike the notes you used to pass in school, these words can’t be crumbled up and made to disappear. The concept of social media perpetuating our words is at the center of numerous debates because no one knows how to handle that information. Social networking is still pretty new, and the majority of businesses don’t have policies or rules regarding social media as a business tool, even if it’s already being used in that capacity.
A CNN reporter, Octavia Nasr, used her Twitter account to express her lack of respect for a recently deceased Hezbollah leader. Nasr identified herself as a CNN reporter on her profile, as well as in her username. The public was outraged. Nasr tried to apologize, stating the limited character restrictions (140 characters) led her post to be misinterpreted, but the damage was done and she lost her job. Gilbert Gottfried was the voice of the Aflac duck, but was also publicly fired after he posted offensive tweets in the aftermath of the Japanese Tsunami. While the majority of things Mr. Gottfried says can be construed as offensive, some say he was fired because Aflac was very involved in the aftermath of the tsunami.
These events could have been prevented if there was a social media policy in place for both employers and employees to follow. Businesses can better protect themselves by clearly outlining what material is and is not appropriate to be associated with their brand. A proper policy will also prevent situations where an employee posts something he believes to be harmless, but is considered offensive by his employer.
Finally, businesses should make sure they have a social media policy to comply with the FTC’s guidelines concerning the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising, as they cover a lot of scenarios in the social media realm. As for mixing personal opinions while representing your company, it’s best to keep them separate, at least until you get your own social media policy.
To read the complete guide from the FTC click here : http://ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf
To read the complete Federal Trade Commission Act, click here: http://www.ftc.gov/ogc/FTC_Act_IncorporatingUS_SAFE_WEB_Act.pdf