Chamber presents social media’s impact

Published 4:49 pm Friday, September 4, 2009

North Shelby Library was host site for an event presented by Shelby County Chamber of Commerce on Aug. 27. Ninety-five members and guests from a wide array of businesses arrived with laptops and iPhones to learn how information networks impact labor, law and business.

Attendees learned risks and benefits for the two most commonly used media, Facebook and Twitter. Trent Cotton, representing SourcePoint, noted there are millions of users.

“Most businesses today use social media,” he said.

SourcePoint provides human resource management services.

Donna Brooks, an attorney for Lehr Middlebrooks & Vreeland, P.C., discussed labor and employment law issues relative to social media.

“The First Amendment Freedom of Speech rights exist between employees and government employers only. It does not govern private companies,” she said. “Those employers can intrude on employee’s after-hour speech as long as it isn’t a protected activity, such as religion.”

Users of Facebook, Twitter, bloggers and similar media should remember there is no privacy with these technologies. The whole planet can see photos, videos and words posted, and they are dated evidence forever.

An employee can be fired for displaying anything that sheds a negative light on their business. Especially sensitive industries include healthcare, insurance and high tech companies.

“Employers must set a social media policy for employees,” Brooks said. “Even profiles and blogs should be considered accessible via subpoena or a third party who has access. As a business resource, it is an efficient cost-effective source of information.”

Employer risks include discrimination in hiring. With more employee information comes greater responsibility. A guide for employees includes not using company equipment or time for these purposes. Any media content posted should reflect company values, and abide by its ethical standards. Employees must guard confidential information and be respectful, assuming anyone could be reading posts.

David Griner, Social Media Strategist for Luckie & Company, described Twitter.

“It’s micro-blogging, with short burst of thought,” he said.

Twitter uses no image or video posting, and is much less private than Facebook or blogging. It’s like text messaging in real time. Twitter can help find a job, new clients, gardening tips or recipes.

“Today if you want privacy go knit in a closet,” said Griner.

Gladys Hodge Sherrer can be reached by e–mail at