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Adrienne McCarthy
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The Importance of a Corporate Social Media Policy in South Africa.

31 December 2013, 08:51

What does the Justine Sacco saga and the Durex drama of 2011 have in common?

Both got caught with their pants down. Neither practiced safe social.

Staff become brand ambassadors, sometimes unwittingly, sometimes unworthy. They could be offensive, conflict your brand, or fail to handle a customer complaint with professional tact. These mistakes could blow up into a full-scale social catastrophe.

So what can your business do? Develop a social media policy.

Here’s Why.

A corporate code of conduct will not only prevent bad things from happening, it will also, much like a business plan, focus your efforts for maximum effectiveness.

Social Policies empower staff, giving confidence to protocol, and allow them to take action and make the right decisions when representing your brand online.

One can’t help but question the misfortune, when an employee loses their job due to a previously undefined error in judgment. With no legislation explicitly dealing with social media in South Africa, employers must look to other statues and the common law to determine social media law.

Take Fredericks v Jo Borkett Fashions, a case bought to the CCMA in 2011. Fredericks was dismissed as a result of derogatory Facebook updates. This former employee challenged the fairness of the dismissal, maintaining his/her right to privacy. The updates could be viewed by anyone, even those who were not ‘friends’ on the website. The CCMA took the view that an employer is entitled to intercept such content (Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication, related Information Act 70 of 2002 - RICA). Jo Borkett was subsequently entitled to access wall posts open to the public, and Fredericks' dismissal was deemed fair by the CCMA.

Many staff may assume they are untouchable with our constitutional right to express ourselves. According to Rosalind Davey, director at Bowman Gilfillan, the common law right to a good name and reputation falls within the broader right to dignity. Our constitutional right to dignity generally holds sway over freedom of expression.

Would Fredricks have resisted the urge to express his/her personal views if there was a transparent, social code of conduct in place at Jo Borkett? I believe so.

That’s why Social Media should start with a tailored, Corporate Social Policy. That is a code of conduct, drafted in line with your individual Industry and cultural circumstance in mind.

Check out Addon Digital for solutions available locally. And remember, As Chris Roper, editor of the Mail & Guardian Online once tweeted:

“Practice Safe Tweeting! If you’re going to fuck your brand, use DurexSA.”

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