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Social, Stalkers and Spill Overs – Social Media Guidelines

As agency heads push their teams to pursue more and more ‘social’, those who are newer to the environment will be less aware of the potential pitfalls. Even some of the most senior digital experts can be seen making some basic errors – and I know I’ve slipped personally on a few occasions.

Don’t get me wrong: social media is a great place to be and TwitStorms still make the news because they are rare, so there should be no panic mongering.

What we all need to do, however, is ensure that those we are responsible for, the people blogging and tweeting on our account, are aware of the pitfalls. I often joke that you’re no-one until you’ve had a stalker, and in many ways it’s true – raised profiles draw attention, and not all attention is good.

But when it happens, when you’re in the eye of the storm, it’s no fun, and we should be helping our people to work out how to be online safely – not in a net nanny way, but in a way that allows them to avoid and to deal with the inevitable issues of being online, from unwanted advances by exes to people with serious mental health issues – and how to deal with it when things go wrong.

The online environment suffers from the same syndrome as drivers. There’s a screen between you and the outside World. But whilst yelling at the car in front for poor driving is relatively harmless to anything other than your blood pressure, it’s too easy to press ‘publish’ in social media spaces, and the consequences can take as long as a road rage attack to resolve.


Training Your People

I’m sure there will be a longer list to address than this, so feel free to suggest away, but based on my own experiences and the things I witness even senior digital people doing, I’d suggest that the following are, as a minimum, the top ten things that we should be training our people to cope with:

1. Social media /online policies: these need to be living documents, discussed and guidelines agreed, not another piece of paper in with the disciplinary procedure in the company handbook. (Recommended resource: ACAS)

2. Back detail security: How to avoid delivering the details your bank security requests to online thieves: think what details bank security requests and how you may be inadvertently giving these away (think relationship apps, date of birth, dating sites etc) – and ways around this. (Identity theft basics: Google)

3. Copyright and image protection: we often want people to share our work driven content, but the same may not be true for personal images and for others. Knowing how to protect an image and how not to breach copyright are essential digital skills, often overlooked. The consequences can financially and emotionally expensive. (Introduction to copyright: Copyright laws)

4. Personal life spillover: our personal and work lives are often enmeshed when we live in a digital sphere. And this leaves us vulnerable to attacks from people (largely exes). People should be encouraged to come clean and ask for help rather than struggling alone and deleting tweets etc – it happens to the best of us, and is a consequence of having an online profile. Knowing how to manage this and offering support to those who fall ‘victim’ should be routine if we are asking people to raise their profile on our account. (Sample advice: Revenge porn addressed in Womens Health)

5. People with mental health issues: often this isn’t immediately apparent, but there are specific ways of dealing with people with mental health issues. It’s easy to accidentally agitate someone – spotting signs of mental health issues isn’t easy, but there are some ideal ways of addressing them. Our teams need to know for their own sake as well as for the people they encounter. (People with mental health problems in contact with services (ie diagnosed) are around 10-25of the general population, yet there is little written online).

6. Stalkers: Being stalked is no fun, and can be quite a lonely, alienating place, especially as some of the stalkers activity will seem quite normal and nothing to get worked up about unless put into the context of the ‘whole’. It can be hard to get help, but it shouldn’t be hard to get support, and again, there are some clearly identified steps that help deal with stalking nuisances.(Resource: Reputation.com – How to protect or defend against online stalking)

7. Stalking: it’s clear when you feel stalked, but not always clear when we become stalkers. In our search for information about ‘influencers’ or contacts we are due to recommend or meet, it’s natural to use our digital skills to glean information. But at what point does this become too much?

8. Online bullying: Bullies exist everywhere, and it’s not something that we can totally stamp out. But bullying and harassment have a whole new extension in digital, and since it’s possible to be somewhat anonymous or have an ‘alter ego’ online, lines blur and bullies have additional tools in their armoury. Staff need to understand the consequences of bullying and harassment for both victims and for their own careers. (Useful start point: Bullying.co.uk)

9. Addiction: it’s easy to become totally sucked in, 24/7, to a digital world where the realities of bills and heartaches can’t reach. Team members should know the signs, from Internet Distraction Disorder to gambling addiction, and know where to get help. (Useful guide: Helpguide.org)

10. Child protection: we have a degree of control over how we interact online, but if we share information about our children/other people’s children they have no choice. It happens inadvertently. Someone’s had a baby. First day at school. Innocent pictures of naked children in swimming pools. In the wrong hands these shared snippets of joy can feed someone else’s oddity. Knowing how to protect yourself and those you love is important, and whilst it’s down to individuals, if we’re encouraging people to use social media professionally, the line is often automatically blurred. There are guides relating to most platforms freely available online.


It takes time to have these conversations, to set your social settings, and to put processes in place to deal with the issues. But the message it will give to your team about responsibility from all angles and the assurance it will offer clients/potential clients will mean that all problems can be minimised and dealt with quickly and efficiently, and without a lot of unnecessary stress.

Image Source: Bigstock

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Claire Thompson has has 15 years PR experience and runs Waves PR, which she founded. She has great taste in wine and lousy taste in music. The two are not unconnected!