Should an Employer Track Employees' Social Media?
Social media and online culture are already an integral part of modern life - today, it is almost impossible not to have a digital presence. This presence is no longer seen as isolated from offline life, of course, but as an extension of it. With that in mind, is tracking employee social media necessary for an employer?
The times when you could say whatever you wanted on the Internet are long gone; now, online communication is subject to the law and the new moral and ethical codes. One of your employees might be an influencer with a large audience, and everything they say could affect both your image and that of your company as well.
With this in mind, monitoring employees' social media can be of fundamental importance, especially for companies that work closely with the public at all times.
But how do we start this conversation? What are the legal limits on employee social media monitoring? To what extent can employees be required to maintain a professional image outside the work environment?
We will answer these and many other questions in this article. We will start, of course, with the main one.
So, is employee social media tracking necessary for an employer?
Tracking employee social media is a controversial topic that raises a lot of controversies. There are arguments for and against this practice - and the answer to the question depends on many factors, such as the nature of the work, company culture, local laws and regulations, and the balance between privacy and security.
On the one hand, employers may believe that tracking employees' social media is necessary to protect the company from potential legal issues. This way, the employers will be sure that employees behave appropriately online.
They may argue that employees represent the company even outside of working hours and that employees' unregulated online behavior can negatively affect the employer's reputation. In adverse situations, this type of scenario is quite likely to happen.
On the other hand, privacy advocates argue that tracking workers' social media is an invasion of privacy and can create a toxic work environment. These people assert that employees have a right to privacy in their personal lives and that companies may arbitrarily use social media tracking to penalize employees for things unrelated to work.
In general, if an employer decides to track the staff's social media, they must have a clear and transparent policy that sets out why the company is doing this, what information will be collected, and how it will use the collected data.
In addition, the company must be aware of local laws and regulations related to employee privacy and ensure that tracking does not violate these laws.
And speaking of laws and regulations…
What does the law say about employee social media tracking?
Unfortunately, the legislation is not clear regarding this topic.
There are a lot of debates regarding physical monitoring in the workplace (through cameras, for example) and monitoring productivity using special software.
Concerning physical monitoring, the consensus is that companies can use cameras as long as they do not infringe on the worker's honor and dignity rights. Cameras in bathrooms, for example, are strictly prohibited.
Employee monitoring software is permitted if the employer tracks only company-owned devices and notifies the worker in advance. Otherwise, the employee is not required to authorize the software installation on their equipment.
However, in the case of employee social media monitoring, nothing is established.
As a rule, a company can exercise supervision, but this policy must be transparent from the moment of hiring. Workers must always be aware of the criteria by which the employer monitors them, the reason for implementing these criteria, and the company's policies regarding the usage of this data.
When in doubt, remember that any negative psychological effect on the worker is frowned upon by legislation, so a clear-cut and open line of communication between employee and employer is always the way forward.
But what exactly is social media tracking?
Monitoring an employee's social media is the act of tracking and analyzing their social media activities, including posts, comments, and messages. These activities are commonly called a digital footprint.
Employers use this practice to track their employees' online activity to identify any behavior that may harm the company's reputation or operations. This practice may include any activity that could be construed as inappropriate, offensive, or harmful to the company's brand.
The justifications for this tracking can be diverse, including marketing purposes, security, criminal investigation, and even analysis of information from job applicants. In the context of employers, social media tracking can be used to assess a candidate's suitability for a job or to monitor the online activities of existing employees.
One of the main reasons employers engage in social media monitoring is to protect themselves from potential legal issues connected to employment relationships.
For example, if an employee posts something on social media that could be considered harassment or discrimination, the employer may be held responsible for not taking action to stop it.
Social media monitoring can also be valuable for identifying potential issues before they become more serious. If an employee continues posting negative things about their work or colleagues, for example, it could be a sign that they are unhappy and at risk of leaving the company.
Employers can use many different tools and techniques to monitor social media activity. Some companies use software that automatically scans social media platforms for specific keywords or phrases, while others rely on manual monitoring by other employees or third-party companies.
Social media tracking in practice
As the legislation is vague, it all depends on the company's policies and how clearly they are presented to the employee.
Big companies often make an agreement with their employees where the employee cannot badmouth the company or its brands, share confidential information, or gossip about the product or other employees online. These agreements also govern employees' online communication on behalf of the company.
In some cases, monitoring goes even further, requiring the employee to maintain a certain moral image online and offline. For example, swearing or posting candid photos may be unacceptable, as this can ruin the company's reputation. It is important to remember that the employer should always discuss these standards with the candidate before hiring them.
Another aspect of monitoring employees' social media relates to their use of social media during working hours. In this case, the employer can use employee monitoring software to track your activity on social media and chats during working hours.
Several programs can be used for this, for example, CleverControl. It can track how much time the employee spends on social media, which social media they use, and which web pages they visit. The program can also take screenshots of visited web pages and capture all keystrokes (including posts and typed messages).
Yet another essential aspect to be mentioned is the practices regarding hiring influencers.
Influencers and cancellation culture
Influencers are famous "digital personalities", sometimes with audiences in the millions and, therefore, highly impactful in relation to public opinions of the company.
Of course, it is impossible to talk about influencers without talking about cancel culture.
Cancel culture is a social phenomenon where a person or group is the target of public criticism and rejection because of a statement or action that is deemed offensive or unacceptable. This culture has developed mainly on social networks, where users have a platform to express their opinions and to call attention to behavior that is considered inappropriate.
Cancel culture often focuses on influential people, celebrities, public figures, and companies, who are subjected to significant pressure from social media and the general public. The aim is to hold these people or entities accountable for behavior that is considered offensive or harmful and, in some cases, require them to apologize or change their behavior.
Therefore, the employer should always try to detect any influencers among employees, as well as their niches and the size of their audience. With the proper approach, this work can not only prevent possible there are problems but also benefit the company. The influencing employee can share their audience with the company, bringing in new customers.
So, what's the answer? To monitor or not to monitor?
In conclusion, employee social media tracking can be a valuable tool for employers, but it is not without its potential drawbacks. Employers need to balance the need for necessary monitoring with their employees' privacy rights and ensure that their monitoring policies are transparent and consistent with the company's overall culture and values.
If your company is considering implementing social media monitoring policies, you should engage in open and honest communication with your employees and be willing to make changes based on the feedback they provide.
By doing this, you can ensure that your monitoring policies are effective and well-received by your employees. It is up to each company to determine whether or not social media monitoring is necessary, based on their specific needs and circumstances.
Still, by following best practices and being transparent with their employees, employers can use social media monitoring as a valuable tool to protect their company's reputation and operations. Just balance both sides.