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We have all heard over the past few years stories about the perils of social media posts when it comes to employees. An inappropriate comment can affect people’s employment prospects. Company HR departments have been known to check the Facebook profiles of potential employees prior to hiring. I believe there are instances where people have also been fired for careless posts.

Personally I find this utterly outrageous. What a gross invasion of privacy this is. OK I’ll grant that a post derogatory to an employer is not a wise career move for anyone to make, but as a general principle it seems that often the bigger a corporation, the more right it seems to have to exert control over aspects of an employees private life. If an employee can perform the work required and do it to a high standard, isn’t that enough?

But anyway, that’s by the by. The beauty of this social media thing is that there is a flip side. Social media can also bite corporations as well. It is almost mandatory for every company to have a Facebook presence. If you transgress what your potential customers see as fair play, instead of a nice publicity channel for your business, you get caned by the public.

Recently the Australian burger company Grill’d found this out, very much to their detriment. They recently fired a young lady for the heinous crime of complaining to the company because they were paying below what they were mandated by law to pay her and  her  fellow workers. She went to the union about this, and suddenly was sacked for “bullying”.

Unfortunately this young lady did not just go away, like most people in her position. She complained about unfair dismissal and sought her job back, which she was entitled to do under Australian law.

Then a really bad thing happened for Grill’d; the media got hold of the story. People found out. And people weren’t happy. Now this is where the beautiful side of social media comes in. It can’t be controlled by those who are so used to controlling the image of their company so perfectly in all other ways.

A social media backlash is a terrible thing. You have a corporate page to highlight how wonderful you company is and instead you have hundreds and hundreds of comments saying,  “I’ll never eat at your establishment again”.

Then of course the inevitable press release from the CEO, saying things like, “misreported” and the inevitable “Our people are our most important asset”. But it’s too late by then. People are onto the company. They know that it’s simply spin and a slick PR company is trying to make this go away.

As one comment on their Facebook page said “In my experience, any company these days who commences a statement with “Our people are our greatest assets……..” usually, in practice have utter contempt for their staff. It’s the corporate version of “I’m not racist but………..”

There is even now a new area of – well I guess it falls under the banner of PR – social media reputation management. Personally I think the easiest way to manage your reputation on social media is not do things that a reasonable person might find socially unacceptable.

And this shows the beauty of social media. A many edged sword, I’ll grant you, with the ability to bite all areas of social strata but one where a company that transgresses gets absolutely caned. Are we going to see a new era where the bosses have to tread warily in case they incite the ire of ordinary people? Where treating workers fairly becomes the norm because if you don’t the resulting social media storm is toxic to your brand? I for one hope so.

At the time of writing you can still see the hundreds of negative comments on Grill’d’s Facebook page

 

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Shaun

A computer specialist who has had a long and varied career in IT, starting with the days of Novell, progressing through Microsoft on the way to Cisco and network security.Now running Revolution Web Design, to provide customers with great Web Design, SEO and digital strategy advice.