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February 15, 2011

Firms should warn staff to watch their words on Twitter

Employers need to provide staff with guidelines on the acceptable use of Twitter – that’s the message from marketing experts following a legal ruling that material published on the social networking site should be considered in the public domain, writes Clare Bullock.

The warning follows the case of civil servant Sarah Baskerville, who tweeted on her personal account that she was hungover at work, expecting the information to remain private. However, it was picked up and published by national newspapers.

Baskerville complained to the Press Complaints Commission, but the body said that material published on Twitter should be considered public and can be published.

Online marketing consultancy Hallam Communications Ltd director, Susan Hallam, said the ruling was a warning for all businesses to give staff clear guidelines when using Twitter.

“They should also be watching everything their employees write as representatives of their business,” she said. “They need to have a policy to ensure employees don’t put anything on Twitter that they wouldn’t be happy to see on their company letterhead.”

Hallam added that employers need to make their employees aware of the potential damage of getting it wrong. “There are confidentiality, intellectual property and competition issues,” she said. “For example, you need to ensure they are not writing anything libellous.”

Self–employed web developer, Jason Mayes, who has produced staff guidelines on workplace use of social networking, said employee guidance must extend beyond Twitter. “You need to have a general policy which covers everything that engages people online,” he said.

  • To find out whether Twitter can help your business, visit the Marketing Donut feature Can Twitter help your business?