Navigating the potential risks of social media

by | Sep 21, 2023

Reading Time: 6 minutes

In September 2023 Steven Murray, a Cheltenham-based solicitor and Partner at Harrison Clark Rickerby’s, leading the IP and Tech Disputes team, joined me for a LinkedIn Live event to discuss navigating the potential risks of social media.

This session is part of a LinkedIn Live series diving into the topics of my new book, “Planning for Success: A Practical Guide to Setting and Achieving Your Social Media Marketing Goals.I talk about balancing the benefits and risks of social media in Chapter 8.


Watch the recording on YouTube:


While social media opens doors to unprecedented possibilities, it’s imperative to be grounded in reality, acknowledging that mistakes can happen, not all interactions are positive, and challenges do arise.

Should an Organisation Have a Social Media Policy?

Absolutely, establishing a social media policy is crucial for any organisation, regardless of its size or industry. 

The influence of social media is undeniable, often being involved with every facet of our personal and professional lives. Organisations are coming to terms with the substantial impact these platforms have on their daily operations and overall reputation. As some organisations strive to adapt to become ‘more digital’, there is a requirement for a social media policy. It’s a topic that’s critical, yet often overlooked.

Social media is no longer an optional part of communication; it is integral, with platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn dominating the way information is shared and connections are made. In light of this, any organisation needs to acknowledge the reality that their staff are active on these platforms, necessitating clear guidelines and policies.

Some key points to consider when preparing a social media policy are:

  • Employees as Digital Ambassadors

Every employee, knowingly or not, acts as a digital ambassador for their organisation. Everything an employee shares has the potential to affect the organisation’s image, either positively or negatively. It’s crucial for staff to comprehend that their online behaviour, even during personal time and outside of work hours, could have implications for their employer. Employees are a crucial part of an organisation’s security framework, and while they are to be trusted, an organisation needs to mitigate potential risks. This involves having robust social media and privacy policies in place. These policies are crucial, especially in the event of a data breach, as regulatory bodies like the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) will evaluate the measures taken to prevent such incidents.

  • Empowering Social Media Policies

Social media policies should not be daunting or perceived as a list of ‘don’ts’. Instead, they should be prepared as empowering documents, providing clear guidelines on how employees can positively contribute to the organisation’s digital presence.  

  • Guiding Positive Engagement and Providing Support

By outlining do’s and don’ts, the policy serves as a handbook for best practices, helping to prevent potential missteps and mitigate risks. Employees should be adequately trained to understand and follow social media policies. Mistakes can happen, but the impact on the business is significantly reduced if policies have been put in place, and training has been provided.

  • Collaborating Across Departments

Successfully navigating social media is not a task that should fall solely on the marketing department. It requires a collective effort, with every employee within the organisation playing a role. 

  • Aligning Content with Organisational Voice

Ensuring that the content shared by employees across social media channels resonates with the organisation’s messaging and appeals to the target audience is crucial. 

  • The Balance of Guidance and Empowerment

Finding the right balance between guiding employees and empowering them to engage on social media is a delicate task. A social media policy should serve as a roadmap, providing clear directions on the type of content that could/should be shared the tone that should be maintained, and the boundaries that need to be respected. 

  • Leveraging the Expertise of Marketing Teams

For organisations with marketing teams, tapping into their expertise is invaluable. These are the individuals who understand the nuances of social media, can provide practical insights and lead training for colleagues.


Understanding and Controlling Your Social Media Visibility to Mitigate Risks

Often, we can overlook the importance of understanding and controlling our digital footprint when using social media. When setting up accounts on various social media sites, it is common practice to quickly agree to terms and conditions without giving them a thorough read. However, this seemingly harmless action can lead to unintended consequences. Such as: 

  • Default Settings and Potential Pitfalls

By default, most social media profiles are set to be fully visible, making everything you post or share accessible to a wide audience. While social media offers a space for connection and sharing, it’s crucial to be mindful of what you’re sharing and who has access to that information.

  • Taking Control of Your Privacy

Users have the power to customise their privacy settings, allowing for greater control over their online presence. You can decide who can see your posts, who can tag you in photos, and what information is visible on your profile. It’s about maintaining autonomy and protecting your personal space online. Take the time to go through the privacy settings and features of each social media platform you use. Here’s some useful links:

Managing Your Account and Privacy Settings on LinkedIn

How to Manage Your Privacy on Instagram

How to Protect Your Personal Information on X

How to Update Your Facebook Privacy Settings

  • GDPR: A Catalyst for Data Awareness

The introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018 stirred many conversations around data privacy and security. Just as we wouldn’t leave our bank statements outside our front door or project personal photographs for everyone to see, we should also exercise caution on social media platforms. No one will ever be as invested in safeguarding your personal information as you are. It’s important to be mindful of the information you share online, especially on platforms that require sharing of personal details.

To find out more about Social Media and GDPR, read this blog.

  • Effective password management

Passwords are a critical component of digital security, but they can also become a source of frustration. Remembering who has access to which password and associating them with the correct email accounts can be challenging.

Organisations like the Cyber Resilience Center and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) provide guidelines on how often passwords should be updated. This frequency ensures that even if a password is compromised, the window of vulnerability is limited. Many organisations enforce password changes for remote access, a practice that has become more common post-COVID.

Tips for effective password management:

  • Keep Track of Passwords- Use a reputable password manager to store and organise your passwords. LastPass is a popular option, offering both security and convenience.
  • Change Passwords Regularly- Follow guidelines from cybersecurity organisations and update your passwords every six to nine months.
  • Avoid Repetition- Never use the same password for multiple accounts.
  • Enhance Password Complexity- Include a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols in your passwords.
  • Stay Away from Personal Information- Avoid using easily guessable information like birthdays in your passwords.
  • Enable Two-Factor Authentication- Add an additional layer of security to your accounts whenever possible.


Copyright and Intellectual Property

When it comes to content creation and sharing on social media, copyright and intellectual property rights become a critical concern. Here’s how you can navigate this:

  • Reposting and Implied Consent- Most social media platforms have reposting functionalities that typically show the source of the content, implying a form of consent. However, this does not extend to pulling images from social media to use on websites without permission.
  • Obtaining Consent- The safest route is to always obtain consent from the content creator, especially if you’re using images. The photographer is generally the first owner of an image, and using their work without permission can lead to legal complications.
  • Giving Credit- If you do use someone else’s content with permission, make sure to give them proper credit. This can be done by asserting their copyright with a “©” symbol, followed by their name.
  • Free Image Libraries and Creative Commons- Utilise free image libraries such as or Google’s Advanced Search to find images with Creative Commons licenses for use without infringement issues.

To safeguard your own content:

  • Monitor Usage of Your Content- Use Google’s search functionalities and alerts to track where and how your content is being used across the web.
  • Asserting Copyright- Utilise copyright symbols and watermarks to assert your ownership and deter unauthorised use.

If you do see that someone’s using your content and is breaching your copyright, it is advisable to contact them and tell them to stop, and/or ask why they thought it was appropriate to do so. Sometimes, there is an opportunity to discuss the issue before taking things further such as sending an infringement letter. A polite request in the first instance is likely all that is required. If there is a lack of response or pushback, you can seek out a specialist advisor like Steven.


Key Takeaways 

  • Balancing opportunity and risk: Learn how to leverage social media’s benefits while effectively managing potential risks, ensuring your digital presence thrives without compromising legality and integrity.
  • Preparing a social media policy: Learn what a robust social media policy should include and the key points to include in your internal discussions when preparing your policy
  • Fostering safe engagement: Understand how to protect yourself online including privacy controls and data protection guidelines


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