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Social media safety for businesses: ten tips for online responsibility from Hallam Internet

Over the past months, there have been several instances where both individuals and businesses have got themselves into hot water through not knowing what to do on social media.

The Drum asked Susan Hallam, founder of digital marketing agency Hallam Internet, for her ten top tips for staying safe on social:

1. Nothing is private

53 per cent of employees believe their personal profile was none of their employer’s business. But public social media sites are just that: public. And you have little or no control over how your content is managed, shared, and administered. Even deleted content can reappear. This applies to your personal life, but also to company confidential information. If you want to keep something private, or only want to share with a select few, then don’t put it on a social network site. As they say, secrets are best kept by the dead!

2. Respect the law

The Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, recently issued guidance for Twitter users outlining what is permitted, and not permitted, when it comes to tweeting about high profile court cases. He aims to make online users comply with the law, and by raising awareness to make it more difficult for those who commit contempt of court to use ignorance as a mitigating factor. And there’s quite a bit of legislation that governs your social behaviour, so get educated so your business stays legally compliant.

3. Don’t say things you wouldn’t want your mother to see

I find the Gretta-Test works the best for me. If my Mum, Gretta, would object to any content, then I’m sure there would be clients or partners who would feel the same. An extension to the Gretta-Test is the letterhead test: if you wouldn’t want to put it on company letterhead, then don’t put it on social media.

4. Be legal, decent, honest, and truthful

We’re back to the law: The UK Advertising Codes lay down rules for advertisers, agencies and media owners to follow, and these also apply to social media. Complying with the CAP is just common sense. Don’t tell lies. Be respectful of other cultures. No covert marketing. No spam. Don’t be vulgar or obscene or defamatory.

5. Don’t pick fights

Controversy can be the grit that makes a pearl on social media. Taking an opinionated or controversial stance can be an easy way to drive engagement and interaction. But that doesn’t mean slamming the competition, or writing unkind things you are going to regret later. Engage brain before publishing on social media.

6. Get your facts right

Information spreads quickly on social media. What you say now has the potential to be seen by hundreds if not thousands of people in the future. Get your facts wrong and it could come back to bite you. Check your sources, get your facts right.

7. If you make a mistake, say you’re sorry

There’s often the temptation to think that ‘delete’ button is the answer to the mistakes you make on social media. But the power of social media lies in its sharability – so try as you might, you’ll struggle to ever permanently delete what you’ve said. Far better, then, to apologise for your mistakes, be that through a tweet, a status update or a full statement on your website.

8. Respect copyright

They may say that sharing is caring, but sharing somebody else’s copyright material is a bad idea. The obvious answer is just to get permission from the owner of the material, and to give credit where credit is due. Awareness of copyright leads naturally to an understanding of how to handle trademarks, fair use, and then leads into the whole area of financial disclosure laws.

9. Anticipate hackers and criminals

Criminals are actively targeting social media sites, and the vast majority of web-initiated crime involves a social platform. InstantCheckMate report 39 per cent of social media users have been a victim of a scam, profile hacking, or fake links. Criminals are using social media to target victims’ homes for burglary, whilst at the same time the police are using social media to gather information about suspects and gathering background information. It’s dangerous out there, so be careful.

10. Know your company policy on social media

No matter what the size of your business or how big a part you believe social media plays in your strategy, a company policy on social media is an essential part of keeping your company safe online. These guidelines can form part of your company handbook, providing a safe framework for your team to use social media confident in the knowledge of what you expect from them as an employee.

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Susan Hallam

Susan Hallam is one of the UK’s leading digital marketing experts, working both as a speaker and practicing consultant.

She is the founder and Managing Director of Hallam Internet, a digital marketing agency working with a number of world leading companies as well as a wide range of smaller businesses.

Previously a Senior Lecturer in Computing at Nottingham Trent University she has also held senior marketing roles at BT and Capital One. Winner of a 2012 Vistage UK Speaker Award, she is a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists and a Freeman of the City of London A chartered member of the IDM, CIM, and CILIP, Susan was born in the USA, and a resident of the UK since 1985.

All by Susan