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Social Media Sending Off

October 11, 2023

Social media has become a useful tool in the hands of businesses, allowing them to build their brand and create a loyal following by posting exciting new updates and engaging with their customers.

It has become so influential, that sporting organisations now use a range of social media platforms in an attempt to spread their brand across the globe while keeping their valued supporters in the loop with things like player purchases and match-day results.

However, at the end of September, one football team, SSC Napoli, the current Italian Serie A football league champions, received world-wide condemnation due to a post which appeared on their official TikTok account. This video featured their star striker Victor Osimhen – after he missed a penalty in the team’s goalless draw against Bologna on the 24 September.

The, now deleted, post seemed to mock Osimhen by using a dubbed and sped-up voice, calling him a ‘coconut’, and editing an image of the striker’s face. Reportedly, Osimhen and his agent even considered taking legal action.

This incident raises an interesting question for employers:

Should businesses have a social media policy, and, if so, how should it deal with an employee who steps out of line?

Firstly, the answer is obviously a resounding yes. That is because social media is an all-consuming aspect of modern-day life and business, and despite its commercial advantages, could end up causing a HR nightmare without a set of rules which instructs and guides employees on how to use social media positively, in a work or personal context, while clearly outlining the standards that employees are expected to uphold in order to maintain the employer’s reputation.

A policy can be written up as a separate document to be included within an employee handbook or, perhaps more unusually, it could be included in an employment contract. But whichever is chosen, it should clearly outline both acceptable and prohibited uses of social media, and the potential result of any breaches of the policy, making it clear that this could mean disciplinary action up to and including dismissal. It is also worthwhile reminding employees of the consequences of their use of social media in their own time, even if that is through their own accounts.

Either method can provide an equally acceptable deterrent but whether in a separate policy, or as part of a contract, employers should be careful to make sure that the rules can be subject to change in the future given that social media evolves at such a fast pace.

It would be naïve to think that similar social media incidents to the one at Napoli do not occur in other workplaces, particularly given the growing use, and ever-changing nature, of social media. But with a transparent and effective social media policy, you can enforce a strict ‘penalty’ on an offending employee, or even give them a ‘red card’ and dismiss if the offence is serious enough. You cannot control what your staff do at all times but the (hat)trick is to build a strong defensive line and limit the chances of your organisation conceding a sloppy social media ‘own goal’.

For more information on how to draft or implement a social media policy, please get in touch with Blackadders Employment Team, working in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth and across Scotland.

The opinions expressed in this site are of the author(s) only and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Blackadders LLP.

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