The Dangers of Social Media in the Workplace

How to let your employees use external social media without posing risks to your company

Social Media is a great way to connect people. These valuable platforms allow for its users to provide suggestions, push ideas, share interesting articles and news, but they also pose many risks. Especially when it comes to external social media in the workplace. That is why a lot of organizations implement a “no social media in the workplace” policy.

However, the use of external social media, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, during work hours has been proven to be beneficial for the employees’ productivity. As one study points out, 78.6 percent of salespeople using external social media outperformed their peers and generated business through social channels.

Bottom line: social media can improve your business. But there are risks that need to be considered.

1. Inappropriate social media messages

The content of employee’s social media posts should clearly be a concern for employers. There have been multiple mistakes that have caused bad press for the companies involved. Just think about the disastrous US Airways tweet.

2. Company secrets accidentally revealed

In Italy an employee lost his job after posting a photograph containing company secrets on Facebook. The photo contained a noticeboard in the background, pinned to which were confidential details of an important project.

3. Legal Issues

The content in a Facebook post or tweet is fundamentally no different than email or other electronic content from a legal or regulatory perspective. When legal issues arise social media posts can be held against you.

4. Bashing by employees

While employee comments about your business can be great to promote your organization, they can also be destructive when they are meant to vent about the company or its products. In Italy, for example, an employee who worked in a restaurant lost his job after publishing a comment suggesting that dog food was better than the food served by his employer.

5. Malware Risks

Social Media hacking has become a serious problem. The issue here is the trust that comes with Social Media. Because “friends” or those following you are perceived by many to be trustworthy, cyber criminals take advantage of this by using social platforms as a way to hack into a company’s network.

So what can be done to reduce and/or prevent these social media risks?

The first step should be to implement a detailed and effective social media policy.

It is not easy to align an entire company around a social strategy. Team members need to be able to share appropriate content, without losing their own voice. That is why it is important to create an official social media policy for employees—one that gives team members enough flexibility to express themselves, with clear guidelines for best practices.

A few suggestions that can be included in this policy are:

  • Do not post any business-related confidential or internal-use-only information
  • Respect all copyright and intellectual property laws (music, videos, text and photographs)
  • Do not post anything that is maliciously false, abusive, threatening or defamatory
  • Respect privacy; never ask for personal social networking passwords
  • Do not engage with the news media or industry analysts to discuss your company’s strategy
  • Respect financial disclosure laws. Be very careful when making statements about your company’s financial performance, and do not make statements that in any way could violate federal or state securities laws


Not quite sure how to get started? A good example is Cisco’s social media policy. The tech giant posted its entire policy online.

About the author

Anne Geurts

Anne Geurts was Netpresenter’s Community Manager. When Anne is not working hard at monitoring and updating our Social Media, she can be found on the Volleyball court.