The use of social networks in the business sector

Written on 29 Jun 2017

The digital marketing strategies aimed to strengthen companies’ presence, brands, products and services in social networks can have serious legal consequences if internal policies are not articulated regulating their use and performance against infringing behaviour.

The proliferation of social networks for business use in recent times is an undeniable reality. So much, that creating accounts and profiles on popular social networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, among others, has become one of the major digital marketing strategies for companies.

The multiplication and immediate effect of the content expressed in social networks can lead to large corporate profits in terms of the display and impact of the company’s brand image among the internet users but, at the same time, the inadequate management and control of social networks can cause serious economic and moral damages for both businesses and its employees.

The constant evolution of technology and the coexistence of private and corporate use of social networks have consequences in areas such as the right to freedom of expression and information, the right to honour and the right to one’s image, data protection and intellectual and industrial property rights, among others.

The absence of specific regulation in this area and the increasing filing of claims associated with the employee’s misuse of social networks emphasize the need for employers to design internal policies describing why social networks have been implemented in the company and how they should be used. Otherwise, the employer would be at a clear disadvantage in any potential conflict related, even indirectly, with the use of these tools. In this sense, it is worth noting the current case law related to insults, degrading photos, or other behaviours that have earned the reproach of the courts for infringement of fundamental rights of managers, workers, or the company itself.

With regard to the content of these internal policies, it is recommended that employers outline, with clarity and transparency, which are the acceptable behaviours of employees using social networks, not only when they act in the business sphere, but also when they act in their private sphere, to avoid compromising the company’s image, products and services. Employees’ behaviour in corporate social networks should be focused on meeting the needs of the business so that the use of social networks does not reduce the work efficiency. Employers should also establish guidelines regarding the content and language permitted in social networks when employees act in the business sphere or, if permitted, when employees publish content related to the company in the private sphere. This is especially relevant because there is a risk that employees may behave the same way whether they act in the business or in the private sphere. Furthermore, it is important to establish employees’ expectation of privacy when they act in the field of corporate social networks, the employer’s monitoring faculty and the responsibility or disciplinary measures in case of employees’ non-compliance with the obligations covered in the policy.

These internal policies should be clear and accessible to employees, so it is advisable to make them available at the time of recruitment and to keep them posted on networks or commonly used internal spaces for its consultation at any time. Also, taking into consideration the constant evolution of jurisprudence and technology while protecting the interests the company wants to maintain, the content should be reviewed periodically and any updates should be communicated to the employees.

However, not all contents of the internal policy should regulate guidelines and obligations addressed to employees. It is also recommended to create protocols in the event that clients directly insult or threaten the employees through the corporate social networks. This measure could reduce, as the case may be, the company’s responsibility in the case of a conflict of interest.

In conclusion, there is no doubt that the fact that social networks are becoming more and more important in the business world demands a policy that regulates in detail the use of these means.