In the era of flares, large collars, platform shoes and a luxuriant head of hair (1978 just in case you were wondering) the young Robert Gibson was preparing to leave school. At this time we were just being introduced to those whirring, clunking devices known as “personal computers”, the classic Commodore with a massive 8kb memory and a ground breaking thing called the Apple II. At my school we had an extra curricula opportunity to understand computers and even create the binary code to produce basic programmes, it would never catch on, would it?
Fast forward twelve years to 1990 and a certain Tim Berners Lee creates the World Wide Web and by 1992 we can actively “surf the internet”. Within 8 years there are over 20 million websites which by 2006 becomes 100 million with one of those sites being “Twitter.com”. The following year 2007 Apple launched the iPhone.
Now we’re in the era where smartphones are the norm and we have technology in our hands that previously would have been enough to man a mission to the moon.
We are living in an amazing period of technological advancement with gadgets that have gone way beyond Star Trek, if not yet Star Wars.
With the advancement being so rapid we find ourselves struggling to adapt or comprehend the true impact of mass communications and interactivity that sites such as twitter can deliver. The Egyptian demonstrations and movement to remove Mubarak were orchestrated via the web and social media platforms.
As twitter turns 5 this week we are reminded of how important it is to use these fantastic web tools with care.
Never before have we had opportunities to reach a worldwide audience with such ease. Whilst this can be an enormous opportunity for spreading positive messages it can also be immensely destructive and damaging to corporations and individuals.
Many a football manager and club owner discover the true thoughts of players via twitter. Some have even tried to ban their players from using it.
In a recent case a high profile dismissal came within hours of inappropriate tweets concerning the tragedy of the Japanese tsunami. Gilbert Gottfried an actor, comedian and voice over artist lost his job as the voice of a duck, a character that promotes Canadian Insurance company Aflac. Aflac relies upon Japan for over 75% of its income. His tweets were not only inappropriate but offensive leaving his employer no choice but to remove him from the payroll.
One comedian who certainly mistimed his punch line and for every high profile case there are many thousands of business tweeters who also misunderstand or underestimate the impact of their messages.
If your employees are tweeting either on your businesses behalf or personally then you need a policy to cover any potential negativity. Set clear guidelines and ensure that staff understand that social media messages are no different to other mainstream broadcasting and should carry the same rules on appropriate content. These social media “platform shows” on facebook, twitter or linkedin can bring great rewards for your company but it’s essential that your employees also understand the risks. So train them.
If we are to use social networking do we permit it in work time? Given that it is interactive, how do we “manage” the content? What do we do if others say bad things about us, or worse still, we say it about ourselves?
But here is a final “retro” thought dear reader. Turn the screens and the phones and tweets off for a day. That’s better now, isn’t it?
If you would like more information on this or any HR related issue contact me @SamPLaw_HR
or via Linked In or call 0191 2328451.
Robert Gibson is Head of Employment and Managing partner at Samuel Phillips law Firm e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org