Today, Small Business UK reported that more than two in five business owners do not trust their employees with company secrets. Putting aside the gardening leave scenario, and the issue of less-than-watertight contracts when it came to copyrights, patents and design documents, there must be something else making them nervous.
The answer? Social media.
If you’re working at the White House and feel like changing your status or posting that photo of Obama eating a bagel, then think twice, because they were one of the first well-known work environments to ban the site. Social media, when you’re working with multiple accounts, is a serious risk. Tweet from the White House Twitter account, and your job becomes ash and the press have a field day at your career’s expense. But from the perspective of your boss, it’s even more difficult.
If you’re running a small business, chances are your work environment might be far more familial and informal than the majority of larger organisations. However, the problem this carries with it is that issues like internet usage rules within the workplace tend to be infinitely more lax, as do contracts. Establishing a business based on trust and word-of-mouth may work well in the beginning, but as your private company information begins to build up as time goes on and you expand, you’re going to have to face facts and grow up a little.
Contracts are extremely important, and the sooner social media is included in an NDA specifically, the better. Even now, there are people being legally hit for libel via Twitter, such as the Scottish Football Association’s move to enforce new rules preventing the ridicule of referees on player’s social networking accounts. Personally, I think it’s best just to chat with your staff about their use of social media, and think smart.
For example, I use multiple Twitter accounts, each attached to a different project. Now, you can use software that allows you to run multiple accounts, but if you want to be absolutely safe (and we all make mistakes, sometimes), why not use the program for one, and a browser for the other? It’s not infallible, but it does help, and it should calm your boss down. The old version of this issue was plugging in your personal and work email addresses into the same email client, then firing over last year’s numbers to your boss from firstname.lastname@example.org and wondering why their eyes are now trying to pin you to the wall.
It all refers back to the Wikileaks issue, and how an organisation protecting sensitive data needs to watch who they trust. That a 23-year-old had access to this much data is nothing short of ridiculous. It doesn’t matter how talented someone is, or how fast they rise up the career ladder, their access to data should expand with seniority of age, not the shift upwards in the organisational food-chain. Had the American government not played fast and loose with Rebellious Boy Wonder over there, they wouldn’t be in this mess, though you’d be hard-pressed to find WikiLeaks or Assange in the news now.
I’m young yet, and I’ve an interesting career ahead of me, I’m sure. But in today’s climate, the stress that can stem from tweeting to the right account is enough to make you second-guess the worth of multiple accounts, even for business purposes. It’s a tough gig, being a social media rep and a blogger, because you’re ensuring that you’re always keeping everything up to date whilst constantly providing commentary of a timeless nature. Can you balance that against keeping your company’s secrets safe? Of course you can – just keep work talk at work, and play talk everywhere else, because all talk and no confidentiality puts Jack on the dole queue.