Brokerage Ops Technosavvy the May 2014 issue

Q&A with Edward Flanagan

Edward Flanagan, EVP, High-Tech Practice Leader, William Gallagher Associates
By Michael Fitzpatrick
What are the social media risks that companies aren’t thinking about?
Many companies have yet to develop a formal social media policy, and because of that, there may be some reputational, disclosure or employment related issues. Every company wants to control its own brand, control its own product strategies, and is challenged by what it cannot control, which is use of the multitude of social media apps by employees. Their marketing teams no doubt have a strategy that employs social media. But what companies cannot control is employees either disclosing something that contrasts with that brand strategy or posting information that may not yet be public.
Are there other areas of concern?
Decisions around employment that utilize social media may present higher risks. Is it appropriate for HR to research social media posts to screen potential or current employees? If this logic is not applied consistently across an organization, might you face an increased risk of employment practices litigation? What if you act on the postings of some employees but miss the postings of others? Have you created a standard or protocol that is nearly impossible to implement and monitor consistently across your company?
You mentioned non-public disclosure, what are those risks?
CEOs and CFOs of publicly traded companies are fully aware of disclosure regulations and the perils presented by social media. But what about the employee who might be in the know because the CEO just visited a competitor—maybe they speculate over social media that there might be an acquisition, or maybe they speculate on business strategy. That could undermine the public plans of the company or present unwarranted speculation on the stock of the company.
How do you control these risks?
You need a cross-sectional team—from HR to IT to operations—that develops a thoughtful and sensible social media policy. The organizations that do the best job with this are those that have a culture that lends itself to open communication with, and among, employees. Many employees might not understand the broader implications of what they view as an innocent posting on their Twitter or Facebook accounts. Education is critical to align the interests of the company and its employees.
Michael Fitzpatrick

Technology Editor

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