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Due to the public nature of social media content, employees expose a business to risks and opportunities which present when using a public forum such as Facebook or Twitter. Where an employee's profile created in their own name on sites like LinkedIn to be used for personal and business related networking purposes, the distinction between personal and workplace behaviour can be blurred and complications may arise.
Use of social media in a business' marketing strategies must be maintained through adequate content control. Where control of content on social media is not exercised, potential embarrassing situations can arise for a business. For example, Chevy Tahoe suffered an embarrassing backfire in the marketing campaign when they held a contest in which consumers were asked to create an advertisement for an SUV. The campaign backfired when consumers created advertisements suggesting that SUVs caused global warming. The issue for Chevy Tahoe was a lack of content control. Even though they had control of which advertisement to run, there are numerous sites like YouTube on which independent members of the public could post their own content.
While the use of social media can be beneficial to employees personally and in the workplace, it also has the potential to impact negatively on brand and reputation; and client and other confidential information.
In 2013, the Federal Circuit Court in Banzerji v Bowles  FCCA 1052 touched on the issue of blurring the lines between personal and professional behaviour of employees and their use if social media. In this case, a public servant argued that her social media use (being tweets from her personal account on Twitter) was "protected by the constitutional right and freedom of political communication" and was a "simple expression of political opinion, which she made during personal time outside of the office". Justice Neville found that there is no unfettered right or freedom of political expression, and that politically charged comments on Government policy coming from an anonymous Twitter account constituted a breach of the Government's social media policy.
In Australian Competition and Consumer Commission v Allergy Pathway Pty Ltd (No 2)  FCA 74 there were third parties who posted misleading and deceptive information on Allergy Pathway's Facebook and Twitter pages. The Federal Court found that Allergy Pathway had indirectly contravened the former Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth) resulting in substantial fines and penalties. The Court's determined that the company became responsible as the publisher of the comments when they became aware of the comments and did nothing towards having them removed. This decision has important implications for companies that use social media for networking and promotional activities. Adequate processes and compliance procedures must be in place prior to promoting goods or services through social media to avoid potentially expensive or embarrassing consequences for the company.
Businesses can take steps to protect their brand's image and how their brand is used on social media websites and the internet as a whole, including:
It is critical that employees understand their obligations in relation to handling confidential information belonging to the business or to their clients and how this relates to the way that they use social media in a personal and professional context. An employee's contract and an employer's confidentiality and social media policies should clearly define the correct manner for handling confidential company and client information. An effective social media policy should reflect the employer's aim to protect their business interests and reputation.
When developing and implementing a social media policy, employers should: