(Image courtesy of Techbeat)
So in the past few weeks, I have talked about how social technologies are an invaluable (yet free or low cost … funny paradox isn’t it?) marketing tool for organizations to enhance their brand, communication, collaboration as well as a means to boost productivity and sales.
However what issues can arise out of the business use of social media?
Let’s talk about Apple Inc. once again. Being one of the biggest companies in the world its interesting to note that they don’t have an official Facebook page. What is the reason for this? Why wouldn’t apple want to have Twitter, YouTube or even Tumbler?
Whilst this is a broad question, there are several answers that give insight to their anti-external social media campaign, outside of the social interaction that occurs within their official website/forum (Apple Support Communities). One general reason of why Apple has not ventured to these social technologies can be explained by the legal issues that pertain to creating these profiles, in which are related to legal issues, risks and reputation.
Apple is known to be secretive when it comes to their products and new releases as well as any business secrets. Having a Facebook/Twitter page puts their company at risk of exposure. Intellectual property issues, disclosure/control and defamation of confidential information all spring to mind. What would happen if an disgruntled employee posted information on their Facebook page highlighting all of the details of the next iPhone before it hit the markets, or even then what would happen to Apple’s share price, and what do Apple’s competitors such as Samsung have to gain from finding this information.
Apple’s reputation is at stake whenever any media or customer’s respond to their products, services etc. Without adequate control over who or what can go onto their Facebook page, (in which can be difficult Facebook). The amount of good/bad publicity is growing everyday, Apple’s fan base is incredibly large, and the last thing Apple want’s is for people leaking sensitive information. BBC News even discusses how Apple has slapped bloggers lawsuits over publishing such information over the internet.
Even social technologies such as LinkedIn have proven to be a threat to companies like Apple, demonstrated by Malcolm Burrow in his article where he explains that employee malpractice or even lack of knowledge can mean uploading employee email address-books to these social sites, subsequently, breaching information assets and even leading to future cases of spam emails.
It is also interesting to note that even though Apple doesn’t have any official pages, there is still a large number of ‘fake’ or ‘unofficial’ Apple Facebook pages floating around the internet, which poses a severe risk to Trade mark infringement or even defamation of Apple as a company. Have a look at these two fan pages which have 9.5 million likes and 1.2 million likes respectively. What’s even more concerning is that one of these pages are full of people’s comments/recommendations on Apple as a company and its products. Although some of these comments might be harmless and commending Apple, you can also see the nasties that appear. One of these comments even has curse words and other comments describe their frustrations and hatred to Apple (see below image, press to enlarge).
(Images by Author)
The other issue in which organizations face is of the grey area of where an employee work’s for a business and what they may post during their private life. Whilst the normal employee may not post anything slanderous or leak any information assets publicly, companies need to ensure that they are protected and are able to act if this were to happen. If you don’t believe that it could happen, have a look at this huge list of 689 published cases involving social media evidence. Furthermore, the power of social media stems even further than personal or organisational use, the negative impact of the social ‘voice’ can have a detrimental impact on events even like fair court trails as ECU explains.
To combat this, companies need to establish a Social Media Policy (SMP), and Burrow explains its use as:
“supplement[ing] a contract of employment to be legally enforceable by an organisation on its employees. The aim of an SMP is to clearly communicate what is acceptable conduct on Social Networking Sites by an organisations employees and contractors and what conduct is unacceptable and would make an employee liable to dismissal… [It is a] high level document that communicates how an organisation plans to participate within social media”.
By prescribing such a policy, organizations can control or assign information owners and make them liable for what they potentially post online. This in turn mitigates the risk of companies being exposed and left reputationally damaged.
Finally it is clear that whether a company utilizes social technologies or not, they should be made aware of any potential ‘fake’ or ‘fan’ pages that are created on their behalf and that the company should at least reserve any domain names in order to mitigate the risk of defamation or damage to reputation.
Dear Tim Cook, please look out for the fake Apple pages, and I know its hard but lets get more apple social sites, yes?
Thanks for reading and see you guys next week.