Social IS Business

At the beginning of 2020 Databasix hosted a webinar wherein we discussed the data protection challenges for the year ahead. At no point during the preparation or delivery of the webinar did I talk about working through a global pandemic.
Kellie Peters, Databasix

In late March when the Government announced the lockdown in order to reduce the impact on Covid, many businesses had to rapidly shift their office-based staff to home working. The lockdown accelerated the adoption of new digital technology, such as Zoom, Slack, Microsoft’s Teams and WhatsApp, to communicate with staff and customers.  In a recent survey from messaging platform provider Guild, 42% of UK workers admit to using WhatsApp for work purposes despite it being against WhatsApp’s legal terms of service to use it in ways that involve any non-personal use!

One risk with using messaging platforms such as Slack, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger is the perception that these tools are exempt from an organisation’s data protection policy, as they simply allow team members to be social with each other.  However, like email, these same tools can, and have been, used by staff to express opinions that can cause distress or embarrassment.  

B4 members have given us some anecdotes highlighting some of the hidden risks with the ‘new way’ of communication, and lessons that we can all learn:

Cheryl-Lee Foulsham, Oxford Duplication Centre

Cheryl-Lee Foulsham, Oxford Duplication Centre

For my business, our reputation was affected.

6 years ago, an ex-employee started working for himself.  Unknown to me at the time he was plagiarising our website to include content and photographs. This led to a handful of clients believing I owned the company.

I received several 1-star reviews before I realised what had happened.  I had to contact Facebook, Google, and my solicitor to deal with this successfully. 

I would always stress that reputation is key. Each business is responsible for checking the platforms you are on. That passwords are up to date and that you are not being plagiarised.  Last year my Instagram was copied by someone in Nigeria! Fortunately, Instagram removed this within a few hours and no harm was done. 

In the Social Media world we live in, we need to be even more vigilant and be fully aware of where we market our businesses and to ensure we are fully in control of those platforms. This clearly is just one issue that businesses can struggle with on Social Media platforms, but an important one nonetheless.

Paul Ballinger, STL Communications

Paul Ballinger, STL Communications

We, like most businesses, have had an interesting “marriage” to social media since the lock down in March. Social media is, dare I say, a necessary evil – one that has to be managed and respected

From a business perspective we had a policy that LinkedIn and our website were the most professional platforms to communicate through but as the lockdown built we were driven towards WhatsApp as it was an “app of choice” for our team and it was something that could also be acceptable outside of work hours. This then bridged that odd gap of work and social: When should messages be sent and what’s appropriate? Most of our language and tone is different at home compared to at work and although the audience is the same sometimes the tone needs to change. You have to be careful with what topics you discuss.

It’s been an enlightening experience for us all at STL. It’s understood that once you type it you can’t take it back, so we’ve learnt to be mindful of what we type. There are those that prefer to be social in the evening, even playing “family fortunes”, and those that once they finish a day’s hard work they like to shut down and enjoy the privacy of home life. It’s a balance and as long as that’s explained and agreed to then we have found that it can work well as either an important messaging service or just to keep in touch with colleagues and ensure that they are OK.

We use email for company correspondence, have a WhatsApp group purely for light hearted social chatter and another WhatsApp group for important business communication, and I’m happy to report that to date these distinctions have been kept clear and happily adhered to.

Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin etc. bring their own shades of grey, but I believe that if an individual shares their place of work with the world on those platforms then the employer has a right to ask that the content is appropriate as a reflection of their organisation. Now let’s try to agree on “appropriate”… Good luck!

These real-world insights from STL and Oxford Duplication Centre demonstrate that whilst social is business our staff must be made aware of the pros and cons of using such tools. Here are my top tips for reducing your data protection risks when using new communication tools:

  1. Update your data protection policy to provide guidance on acceptable use of approved communication tools
  2. Provide simple training sessions for all staff to attend describing how to use the new systems, reinforcing the organisation’s data protection policies and procedures
  3. Create a social media policy to help protect you not only from security threats, but from bad PR or legal trouble
  4. Put someone in charge of your organisation’s data protection so that they can oversee the implementation of your policies and procedures and can be the first port of call should a breach occur

If this article raises any data protection questions, please book a complimentary 30-minute chat with me, your friendly Data Rockstar.


We are a people-focused data consultancy, using our expertise in data collection and data protection to help organisations improve efficiency and decision-making.

Kellie Peters

Founding Director

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