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Small firms warned about Christmas social media slip-ups

Thursday, 16 December 2010 | By Michelle Hammond

Small businesses should review their workplace policy in the lead-up to Christmas in order to minimise the risks associated with social media, according to a security expert.

 

AVG security evangelist Lloyd Borrett says inappropriate behaviour online, typically heightened at Christmas time, could damage a company’s reputation and put the business at risk.

 

“The staff party kicks off with some drinks in your office, employees are starting to loosen up so that their guard is down and a few irresponsible tweets and emails start to get sent,” Borrett says.


“Worse still, after the lunch or dinner drinks, employees come back via your office to grab their coats or belongings and get picked up to return home. The company’s social reputation could be damaged if your employees decide it’s a good time to update your social media profiles with office party shenanigans.”

 

In addition to ruining a company’s reputation, Borrett believes this kind of behavior could compromise the security of a business as employees are less guarded about what they share online.

 

He says small businesses often underestimate their vulnerability with regard to online risks, with one in four experiencing some kind of security breach.

 

“Our findings show 50% [of businesses] might have a security policy in place but that means there’s also 50% who don’t,” he says.

 

“Of small businesses, one in seven has no security software or security system in place at all. That leaves employers at the mercy of what their employees decide to post online.”

 

Borrett says employers need to prevent this behaviour by establishing an online security policy prior to any parties or breaks.

 

He suggests the following tips:

  • Explain to each individual that they are an ambassador for the company brand, which extends to their behaviour both online and offline, and inside and outside of the office.
  • Employees’ negative comments about the company or another employer, made in an email or via social media, can often be misinterpreted badly. Avoid libelous litigation cases and lay down strict ground rules.
  • People often send web apps, videos and eCards to each other at this time of year. Make it clear to your employees that this material should not be viewed during work hours.
  • Smartphones make it possible to access email and corporate data anywhere, so ensure your policy extends to the use of tablets and smartphones.
  • Do not allow your employees to post inappropriate pictures of themselves online from company camera phones.

Borrett says in the event that an unfavourable tweet, status update or photo is posted online, the best way to rectify the situation is to “admit to the problem, apologise and get on with it”.

 

He also advises small businesses to inform their clients in advance of any intentions to shutdown over the holiday period, which can be done via email or social media.

 

Borrett says it’s not necessary to monitor or respond to comments made online during this period, providing people know the company will not be active in such conversations during a specified period.

 

AVG has released a free Small Business Security Guide to help small businesses establish workplace policies for technology use.