Before You Share Your Opinion…

r1109933_13482704Last week I shared some of the values that organisations (Shoes of Prey) can add to their businesses and customers using social media. Just like everything that has a good side, social media can also bite the users skin deep. In today’s post, we will be looking at some of the legal risks that can affect an organisation if precautions were not initially taken. For this purpose, I have chosen to use Myer retail store chains as my organisation of focus.

Gone are the days of traditional broadcast media where every conversation is one to many, the publisher has the sole responsibility the information being published and the facts behind them. In the case of Social media, everyone is a publisher and their is an online permanent trace to everything that is being published. Malcolm Burrows of Dundas Lawyers said that “it seems that almost everyone from young to old, rich to poor,CEO s to tradespeople are engaging in social media, what about the disadvantages? One of the predominant disadvantages is that social media sites can distort the boundaries between the work and private lives of employees, meaning that people now interact in a social setting and also do business as a result of this interaction”.

3141182898_47f209477e-359x300Australia’s biggest retail department store group and (with an annual turnover in excess $3 billion) market leader in Australian retailing, Myer, was founded by Russian migrant Sidney Myer in 1899 and today, with about 14,000 team members and 67 stores across Australia, deal with men, women and children’s fashion, accessories, furniture, home ware, etc.

Recently, Myer decided to jump on the social media band wagon by using Facebook, Twitter and You Tube in a number of ways like targeting and adding value to customers to ensure competitive offerings. Earlier this year in May, Myer CEO, Bernie Brookes said in a conference, that the proposed levy to fund the National Disability Insurance scheme (NDIS) will hurt retail sales as it will cost their customers $300 which they would have spent in one of their stores. This statement resulted in a social media crisis as their Facebook and Twitter pages (#myer started trending overnight) were bombarded with hundreds of messages from NDIS supporters calling him words like “selfish”, “callous” and “bigoted”. With over 190,000 subscribers, one person, Jackie commented on Facebook saying ” Myer is Australia’s largest department store and has been synonymous with style and fashion for over 100 years. Sadly, the thoughtless comments by your CEO today regarding the National Disability Insurance Scheme’s supposed negative impact on Myer’s profits mean that Myer is now synonymous with insensitivity, ignorance, elitism and greed. Shame on you, Bernie Brookes, shame on you Myer”.

Legal Risks of Social Media that could affect Myer and the Retail Industry?

Laurel Papworth of Forbes magazine, in response to the Myer social media issue said, “there is no doubt that PR professionals do a great job of training their CEOs to speak to businesses, to stakeholders, to board members- but they do a lousy job of preparing the boss for social media”. Posting your opinions about something or someone online to be seen by millions of people feels a lot less inhibited than sharing the same thing physically in front of millions of people. Due to the liberty given to us by social media, it is important for organisations to know their legal risks.

  • social-media-for-lawyersReputation Risks are one of the most common risks that can happen  to Myer as a result of wrongfully using social media or engaging negatively in a public conversation having a great social media following. It is also the most imperative risk to minimize as it can cost the organisation some serious damages to their brand as seen in the unfortunate Myer-NDIS event.  Papworth said, ” I am watching Myer’s stock in real time, drop as the social media viral effects hold. On the day of the comments alone, it fell about 4 percent. can CEOs really afford to be this oblivious to social media?”.
  • Loss and Disclosure of Confidential Information– retail businesses such as Myer use lots of social media tools such as gamification in form of reward cards, MyerOne card to promote their sales. these cards contain personal details of customers and sometimes these information might be used by the employees or contractors to request a connection to social media platforms such as LinkedIn from clients, thereby breach confidential information by sharing the organisation’s database on social media.
  • Defamation– Being in a very competitive industry (retail), companies like Myer stores, it is likely that employees either on work time or personal time, might post or comment online making false statements about other people or products/services of competitors.

Social media Policies are put in place to communicate acceptable and unacceptable social media conducts and should;

  • Be clear on how postings by third parties are to be managed
  • Also help employees have an understanding of how to react appropriately when bad social media situations arise
  • have clear agreements with employees on boundaries
  • cover things like accessing and circulating inappropriate contents in the workplace

Before I go today I would like to share this video of US congressman, Anthony Wiener mistakenly tweeting a picture of his groins  as an example of how social media gone terrible wrong, can cause harm not only to you or your business but to others around you. Enjoy

This was a bit messy, i’d have to agree. Wouldn’t want to be this guy for a million dollars. Thank you for joining me today and until next time, Goodbye, Adeu, Addios, Au revoir…have a great week