“Individuals should treat every social platform as a public stage”, was the overriding message when law and IT industry experts met representatives from a range of SMEs and large multinational businesses at the London office of Intellect, on Thursday evening last week. The event, a joint initiative between Intellect, the trade association for the UK’s technology sector and Whiteoaks, a leading technology PR, social media and influencer relations consultancy, provided a forum to discuss rising concerns surrounding the corporate use of social media, data privacy and the possible impact of proposed EU regulations.
The panel – Clive Longbottom, founder and lead analyst Quocirca; Vanessa Barnett, partner Charles Russell LLP; Kevin Streater, vice chair BCS and director ForgeRock Inc; and Ian Osborne, director B2B Intellect - agreed that proposed EU regulations would be difficult to impose. Potentially these could grant the “right to be forgotten” so that any individual could request that their online footprint be erased. But they said that this was impractical; it would be impossible to ensure that all data had been removed, especially where held outside EU jurisdiction.
This emphasised even more the need for restraint and caution, but this was difficult when companies also need to use social media to promote their brand and encourage employees to do so.
All those present said that their company did have a social media policy in place. The main challenge was communicating and continually updating this to include newly popular platforms, across sometimes hundreds of thousands of employees and with new recruits constantly joining the company. These policies were also difficult to regulate because of the blurring of boundaries between home and work.
The only answer is to depend on an employee’s ethical and professional values – a situation which has always been the case in business. However, with changing attitudes to company loyalty, the differences in the way these platforms are used according to age and experience and the fast-evolving nature of social media itself meant that a governance model was still a good starting point.
Ian Osborne of Intellect who chaired the panel commented: “There was an overwhelming belief that we must depend on human values – but with around 28 million workers in this country we can’t rely on every employee using common sense. For businesses implementing a social media policy, this means that education is a top priority to constantly encourage a thoughtful and ethical approach.”
James Kelliher, managing director of Whiteoaks agreed: “It’s clear that there’s still huge challenges and questions surrounding the use of social media for business. Companies are concerned not just about the security of sensitive data, but also the potential to make or break a brand’s values and integrity. We believe that it’s only through events such as this panel discussion, where these matters can be openly and honestly discussed - combined with the guidance of industry experts - that businesses will be able to find a way forward to optimise the advantages of social media, while minimising risk.”
The Whiteoaks Consultancy Ltd (Whiteoaks) provides PR and communications services to many of the world’s leading B2B technology companies and niche IT-specialists. It is one of the UK’s top five fastest-growing PR consultancies (Holmes Report Global Rankings) and top ten technology PR consultancies (PR Week League Tables). The consultancy’s unique and innovative results- driven proposition, 360 PR, expands the capabilities, accountability and strategic value of public relations. Founded in 1993, and with a team of more than 40 PR professionals, the firm generates annual fees of approximately £4M. For more information on Whiteoaks, please visit www.whiteoaks.co.uk or call 01252 727313.
Intellect is the go-to organisation for the UK tech industry. It is the trade association for the UK’s tech sector, which represents developers and suppliers of digital technology and services. Intellect has 860 member companies including major multinationals, mid-sized firms and small businesses. Collectively these companies directly employ more than half a million people in the UK and their products and services are used by every part of the UK and global economy.