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One in six organisations have fired an employee due to social media posts as new research highlights the need for businesses to implement HR and IT social media policies.

A survey on corporate social media usage, carried ouit by SpamTitan Technologies, revealed show that 87 percent of companies would consider firing an employee if they posted something confidential about the company on a social media site, while not surprisingly, only 16 percent of companies think it is ok to use social media for personal use at work. These results mirror a recent study from Osterman Research which outlines real world corporate behaviour, the research found that one in six companies have dismissed an employee due to something they posted on various social media outlets.

High profile examples of people who lost their jobs because of something they posted online include Pizza chain Domino employees who uploaded videos of them playing around with customers’ food on YouTube and a Bishop who was suspended for negative comments about the British royal wedding Social media use is on the rise, with 145 million active Twitter users globally and 345 million tweets a day, and Facebook has 845 million Facebook users worldwide. Social media use on corporate networks is also up significantly: Osterman Research found that 36 percent of corporate employees are using Facebook at work, up from 28 percent 12 months ago; Twitter use has gone from 11 percent to 17 percent; and LinkedIn from 22 percent to 29 percent.

“The benefits of social media for companies are far-reaching,” said Ronan Kavanagh, CEO SpamTitan. “However it is a dual edge sword. To fully realise the benefit and to protect one’s business at the same time requires clear, audited and implemented HR and IT policies around the use of social media tools. Previous research shows that only 22 percent of organisations have a formal, detailed and thorough social media policy in place. In order to give employees the feelings of autonomy and ownership, they need to know the rules covering general HR issues as well as computer and Internet use. We all hear stories of employees wasting time at work surfing the Web. As online shopping continues to grow, guess when people do their shopping? According to the 2011 ISACA Shopping on the Job Survey, over 40 percent of US companies believe they lose over $10k in lost productivity as a result of employees shopping online during work hours.

For the reasons highlighted, an internet usage policy is now a serious requirement for businesses. Importantly, not all internet policies should be the same: each should be tailored to the organisation’s particular requirements so that clear, realistic and company appropriate guidelines are in place. As well as the issue of time wasting on the internet, the risk of employees accessing infected sites of spreading malware, viruses and botnet infections across the network is widespread. Cybercriminals wanting access to company network and data are not interested in the size of the company so all sizes are at risk however, being prepared is the best defence to tackle these problems.

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