Last week we joined forces with legal firm Colman Coyle with a first social media mock employment tribunal. Held at the Law Society with real barristers, we even had a fabulous and very personable Judge.

It is not often that you really get the chance to see the detailed consequences of social media gone wrong. And this fictional tribunal case was a startling eye opener on how the law views social media. The case itself was fun and kept us all glued to our seats, but more importantly it highlighted some important points for me.

Not just a policy you need to train too

In summing up the Judge made it clear that the case would have been favourable to the brand had the company actually got a social media policy in place. Whilst our recent research on social media and the law showed that 19% of brands don’t have a policy or guidelines, chatting to the audience in the break revealed many had a ‘policy in development’ but nothing finalised. Suggesting that there are likely to be more than just those we identified that really need to put a social media policy in place.

Policies aside, the judge and barristers both asked questions about training and communication of the policy. Brands need to do more than create a policy, they need to make it part of the company skills and capabilities.

Privacy is sometimes a skill you need to teach

When is your social profile private? During the course of the mock tribunal there were many references to the fact the employee believed their social profile was private. Let’s face it, working out how to make your settings private on most social networks is complicated or sometimes non-existent. Not all employees understand the consequences, or that their posts are public, even when they think they are private.

It makes sense, therefore, to explain how to be private on social networks. It keeps the organisation safe and drives home how accessible posts and tweets can be to other employees and the wider public.

Social media knowledge could change tribunal outcomes

I was quite surprised how little knowledge people have about social media. The Mock Tribunal portrayed experts grappling with some of the basics of social media. At one point, there was some debate as to what a ‘like’ button was, where it was, and if anyone had clicked on it. Throughout, there were some very basic questions being asked, which if you did not have a working knowledge of social media networks, would have seen you come unstuck.

It seems to me that whilst the law catches up with social media, you should ensure that your own representation is very well informed on the ins and outs of social media.

You need evidence and then more evidence

Prior to the case being heard, it was clear that you need to have a great deal of evidence prepared to support your case. Of course, digging through endless post after post on Facebook and Twitter to find relevant information could be terrifyingly resource intensive.

I am very taken with Social Safe. A very reasonably priced tool (starts at £5 pa) that stores all your profile posts and comments on your own hard drive. It logs them in a rather nifty journal like format that means you can both search across your own profiles and look at individual dates too. Useful not only in matters of litigation, but during a crisis too. We have a 6 months free offer if you want to give it a try https://bit.ly/savesocial.

The mock tribunal was not only great fun, but it really did highlight how granular you need to be when protecting your brand, your employees and your marketing activities.

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