Your teenagers’ social media post could have the corporate investigators knocking on the door

Published on
August 15, 2013

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Comments on social media can no longer be viewed as harmless chatter not relevant in the real world. The lines between traditional media and social media are increasingly being merged, and the tentacles of cross-connection are becoming stronger.

Take the case of a resource industry executive who recently accepted a new senior position in another country. Among the circle of friends connected to his teenage daughter by social media were other teenagers whose parents worked in the resources sector. A conscious decision was made to withhold news from the teenager of the move until it had been officially announced to the market. This was recognition that if his daughter started discussing the move on social media, other parents connected to this industry would become aware and quickly reach a conclusion about the reason for the move.

In this case, if his industry peers joined the dots on the location of the move, they would also see the potential market implications for other parties who would obviously be involved.

So the executive took the tough decision not to immediately tell his daughter they would be moving overseas and instead told her when the appointment was officially announced. It seems like an extreme decision but it indicates how seriously organisations are taking social media and its potential impact on company announcements.

In the financial sector, organisations are under orders to take digital media seriously. As indicated in an earlier Rowland post, the Australian Stock Exchange has upgraded their continuous disclosure guidelines, making it absolutely clear the financial sector must monitor blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other forms of social media to check whether details of supposedly confidential matters are leaking.

It used to be that our private lives were very separate from our business lives. However with social media, these lines are being blurred and we can no longer assume that information does not flow between them.

If a market sensitive deal is being discussed on social media, then the market must be informed. And that discussion can be as simple as someone commenting on social media that he’s ordering pizza in again because of another long night in the office at a broking firm, or a CEO’s daughter posting on social media that she’s leaving town and not looking forward to living in a new city.

It doesn’t take much to put the seemingly innocent comments together, and rumors start circulating….. And for anyone in business, it’s a reminder of the need to be across the implications of what can seem to be harmless social media chatter.