Would you put it on a billboard with your name and the logo of your company?


Today’s world is defined by social media. Social media gives your business the ability to speak to a diverse and large audience. At the same time, social media can be very dangerous to your personal and business brand. Know how to use it well.

Today’s world is defined by social media. Social media gives your business the ability to speak to a diverse and large audience. At the same time, social media can be very dangerous to your personal and business brand. Know how to use it well.

Fred Roed, CEO of Heavy Chef, an entrepreneur education platform, spoke to Emma Sadleir, Africa’s social media expert on the HealthyBusiness podcast about the trends, high-profile digital content cases, and general rules we need to know in the digital world.

Here are some top tips for anyone who uses social media:

Take note: There is no such thing as “personal capacity” on social media. In the digital age, it is easy to associate you with the company you work for, even if you don’t specifically list your place of work anywhere online. Anything you say on any social platform, can and will be linked to where you work.

Think of it as a digital world
  • It’s not just social media – think of it as a connected space where every person with internet access can speak on a global, public platform.
  • This makes digital content dangerous content. Always do the following test: If you wouldn’t put it on a billboard with your name, photograph and the name of the company you work for, don’t put it on social media and don’t let exist in digital format at all. 
  • Remember, when we post on social media, we often view the content in a vacuum without context, tone or control over the audience that sees it. Try to be mindful of how content might be interpreted by a wider audience and the minute something is in digital format, it becomes vulnerable and has the potential to be shared with a much wider audience. Any digital content posted by employees, even in their “personal” capacities, can carry a high reputational risk for your business.
  • Reputational harm can be caused by what employees post on social media but can also come about as a result of employees’ real-life behaviour being filmed or documented and posted online. 
  • Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security on a WhatsApp group with friends. WhatsApp is also social media and carries the same legal and reputational risks that posting on other social media platforms do. Your personal life and things you do are automatically linked to your job or where you work.
Prevention is always better than cure
  • Educating your colleagues and employees and putting social-media policies in place can protect you and your business from legal and reputational harm as a result of employees’ online behaviour. These guidelines keep you safe from any reputational damage to yourself and anyone you associate with. 
  • Digital natives – giving a 24/7 account of their life – need training on the policies you have in place. Your policy has to be educational and easy to understand. 
  • Have two social media policies: one for your direct employees and the other for anyone using your company accounts and posting on behalf of the company. Have specific content plans in place. Things can go seriously wrong in just 14 seconds! Emma shares how in the podcast.
The internet doesn’t forget
  • The “tattoo-effect” of the internet means whatever exists in the digital world, stays there forever.
  • Reputational damage to your business from social media interactions can be irreparable. These include not only job losses or loss of clients, but also legal consequences.
  • Social media leads to social pressure. It can be a form of positive self-regulation. But this social pressure often has more knock-on repercussions than any legal action.
Is it freedom of speech or crimen injuria?

Crimen injuria is a serious violation of someone’s dignity and a criminal offence that is increasing in South Africa with more people publishing seriously harmful content about others on social media. To differentiate between freedom of speech and an attack on dignity, always ask if something is in the interest of the public. What most people don’t know is that children as young as 10-years old can be charged with a criminal offence. In the digital age, we are all considered publishers – the same rules and laws that apply to what a journalist writes on the front page of a newspaper, apply to what we post on social media.  

What to do in a social media-related reputational crisis

If you or your brand are being attacked online, you should always consider if responding on social media is the best way to deal with the matter or if it will add fuel to the fire. It is always a good idea to call in the help of a reputation expert, if you’re unsure. Be careful of the “Streisand” effect by placing attention on something that drives people to the content (when they weren’t previously aware of it). Follow the appropriate procedures when an employee oversteps the boundaries of the social media policy – don’t simply act on social pressure. Get all the information and consider the facts in each individual case.

Educate yourself and use social media well

You don’t have to run off and close all your accounts like Fred wanted to do after speaking to Emma. When you choose to interact and use social media well, it is a great way for your business to connect with people. Emma’s personal yardstick for whether to post something on social media or not, is what she refers to as the “jump-in-your-tummy test”. Simply put, it means that if you are about to put something on social media and you have a nervous feeling in the pit of your stomach, take a step back, pause, and come back later to see if you still want to post it. So much of the content we post is created in the heat of the moment or on a whim – this test is a really helpful measure to ensure that you don’t post something that you’ll regret.

Listen to the HealthyBusiness podcast for this test and more about avoiding social media blunders that could be damaging to you and your business.

Your brand in the social media age

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