I’ve had two issues last month that have taught me a lot about the weird and wonderful world of social media.
My first shock came last week, when I spotted a post from a colleague on LinkedIn. To spare everyone’s blushes, I won’t give too much detail but it contained an expletive, and tackled a controversial theme, referencing both me and BigChange by name.
The second post was also on LinkedIn. This one was published by a valued salesperson, who was frustrated after several appointments had been cancelled. This individual was asking if anyone wanted a last-minute meeting, and gave specific times when they were free.
Neither of these were major issues. They weren’t defaming the business. There were no sexist or racist comments. There was no nudity. Yet they both worried me, and I asked for both to be deleted.
Social media can be a brand wrecker, and I haven’t spent five years building a business I love to see its reputation tarnished by a thoughtless remark. The first post contained a swear word, which could really put off some of our clients. It was also being purposefully controversial, in a bid to get more views. That’s fine, but it wasn’t BigChange’s battle to fight, and as I hadn’t been asked permission, I was deeply unhappy about it.
The second post made us look like some small, flighty outfit just at a time when we are looking to win enterprise clients. August is always a tricky time because so many people go on holiday, but salespeople should never moan publicly about that, or tout for appointments: it just looks desperate.
I don’t monitor my employees on social media, and never will. It’s not my business what they post about their private lives – unless they reference BigChange or circumstances related to their employment. You just trust that people will use common sense, don’t you?
I’ve started questioning myself too. I recently posted about Love Island on LinkedIn – who I would hire from the show. It was a light-hearted commentary on a topical issue but again, I have to ask myself, does it show BigChange in a frivolous light?
This has all been a major wake-up call. I have enlisted the help of my employment lawyer Richard Parr from Blacks to change our terms and conditions to ensure that social media concerns don’t keep me up at night.
We now have an eight-page document that outlines what we expect from our people. It’s all pretty straight forward: no defamation, no bullying or harassment, no misuse of company information, and nothing that could damage our reputation. But having a document like this protects both BigChange and the employees, because we all know where we stand.
A few years ago I met a man called Gerald Ratner at a health farm. He became famous after calling the jewellery sold by the Ratner Group “total crap” at an Institute of Directors conference. After the speech, the value of the Ratner group plummeted by around £500m. This was back in 1991 but imagine how much faster a faux pas can spread on social media today.
I feel like we’ve just had a watershed moment at BigChange, and luckily, we’ve acted fast enough to prevent doing a Ratner ourselves.
Founder & CEO