Google, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Facebook iconsThe benefits of a robust social media presence for a business are myriad and well documented. However, what is less often discussed are the potential risks and security threats that unmanaged social media use can pose to companies.

You may think that this just refers to the high presence of viruses and other malicious content online. Whilst it’s true that online advertisements on mass audience sites (such as social media) are 182 times more likely to contain this kind of content than even pornography sites, there are other risks to consider.

The most prominent of these risks relates to the use of personal social media accounts by a company’s employees or their families.

For example, in 2011 Patrick Snay was awarded an $80,000 discrimination settlement from the school where he had been employed as a headmaster. As is normally the case with these kinds of deals, the terms of the settlement were confidential. However, Patrick clearly discussed the outcome of the case with his family – including his teenage daughter.

As many teenagers are want to do the daughter then posted the news of the settlement on her Facebook page – informing them that the school could “SUCK IT” as they were officially paying for her European holiday over the summer.

Needlessly to say, the school’s legal team got wind of the post and the settlement was withdrawn due to a breach of the confidentiality clause. It is unclear whether or not the Snays were also told to “SUCK IT”, but who wouldn’t have wanted to be a fly on the wall in the family home when that news broke?

So, with that cautionary tale out of the way, please join us as we give you our suggestions for how to establish a harmonious rather than a litigious relationship between social media security and your business.

No Disclosure of Employment Details

You should have a policy that advises your employees not to post their employment details on their social media accounts. You cannot legally tell employees that they cannot share this information with their social audiences, but you can advise them about the dangers.

Not only can this information be used maliciously by those wishing to defraud or steal from the company, but not all social networks are as mass-market as Facebook. Sharing company details on a slightly more questionable network could hurt the reputation of the business and the employee in question.

Educate Your Employees About Privacy Settings

Instruct your employees on social media privacy settings as well as the importance of having them set up correctly.

Leaving accounts on the default settings will usually mean that anyone can view information on their pages, whether they are actually in their network or not. Obviously people want the freedom to post more or less what they like on their private pages. However, with privacy settings locked down tight this will be less of a concern – both for the company and the individual.  

Also warn about the dangers of accepting friend requests from persons that you don’t know personally, as well as being mindful of what you post on more open networks such as Twitter.

Have a Policy in Place

Make sure that your company has an actual written social media policy in place and that your employees are all aware of it and have signed it to show that they understand.

This can lay out what your business considers to be unacceptable content on social media. Include things such as racist or sexist content, extreme political or religious views and things like that.

Not only will this make sure that your employees are informed on the matter, but it will also cover you should any disciplinary action ever need to be taken.

Don’t Ban Social Media

You may think that, with all of the risks and dangers surrounding workplace social media use that the answer is simply to prohibit your employees from using it whilst at work. This is a logical conclusion to draw, but is actually a really bad idea.

If people really want to access something, they will generally find a way. This may lead to them circumventing you firewall software in order to access the sites which will leave your network more vulnerable to other attacks.

You want social networks to be covered by your firewall, not kept outside of it, so should any malicious content accidentally be accessed, the security systems can deal with it.

Train Your IT Team

Your IT team are your frontline troops against any malicious security threats that may try and spoil the digital serenity of your business. Make sure that they are up to date on all of the current threats and risks associated with social media in the workplace.

Your policies and software for protecting your business also need to be constantly monitored and updated and your IT team are best placed to manage this.

Social media can be both a boon and a bust to any business out there and companies need to be wise to the potential costs as well as the benefits of its use. Please let us know if your business has experienced any social media cautionary tales, such as that experienced my Mr Snay and his family and let us know what you consider to be important factors to consider when devising a social media policy.

Have fun.