Cooking up Legal Social Media Risks with Kitchenaid

Businesses are adopting social media for marketing and engagement reasons at an alarming rate, with over 65% of the world’s top companies having at least used a twitter feed in 2012. Yet it is recorded that only 22% of businesses have an actual social media manager or content planner. Therefore, with a combination of these factors and that the boundaries of personal and work social media are being even more blurred, businesses are leaving themselves open to many legal social media risks.

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Kitchenaid is one of the largest kitchen appliance brands in the world, with its products being sold in every continent. Every baker’s dream kitchen would surely have a multi-coloured Kitchenaid mixer (or at least mine would), and with accounts on every popular social media site; Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Youtube, the organisation could be at risk on any of these platforms in regards to social media law.

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(This is the one I want!) Source: Kitchenaid Website

Kitchenaid is not alone when it comes to these potential social media legal risks, every organisation that is involved with social technologies is facing them too, with possible risks for the organisation as a whole, and also for employees. Below I have discussed a couple of examples of legal risks in social media and how these could relate to Kitchenaid.

  • Reputation Risks- I think ultimately this is one of the biggest risks for any organisation online and using social media, particularly for Kitchenaid as they are using so many different platforms. While social media can be great for thinking outside the square and engaging in two-way communication with stakeholders, any form of inappropriate language, imagery or opinions by a business or an employee, can result in severe reputation consequences. Once something is available on social media it can be shared and therefore, will be there forever.

Surprisingly, I actually found a real example of this in relation to Kitchenaid in 2012, when an employee working on the businesses twitter account, thought they were using their personal account and posted an offensive comment about President Obama’s dead grandmother.

KitchenAid-Tweet-640Not only did the tweet share an obvious political standpoint, it was extremely insensitive about a delicate issue, portraying Kitchenaid and its employees in this manner also. Many consumers responded in a way by saying they would never buy from the brand again, and while Kitchenaid issued a very quick apology response, the reputational damage could not be undone.

  • Misleading and Deceptive Conduct (Statutory Risk)- As a retail business, Kitchenaid could be susceptible to the risk, that many other retail social media users are, of showing misleading or deceptive conduct, specifically in terms of advertisements. So for example, if they were to come up with something too ‘gimmicky’ in regards to their products or offers, this could be taken seriously by some consumers and the business may be at risk of having portrayed misleading conduct under the Competition and Consumer Act (2010).
  • Technology Risks- Viruses and Malware will always be a problem online, and as social media sites are used more, the probability of an employee within a business like Kitchenaid accidentally coming across an unsafe website is more and more likely. This could result in many negative outcomes, such as loss of confidential information, which could be damaging if it were something like ideas for an upcoming advertisement campaign.

If I have learnt anything this week in regards to legal risks in social media from case studies we have covered in class and some of my own personal research, it is that to prevent these risks from becoming realities every business needs a Social Media Policy (SMP). While I could not find an actual SMP available for general viewing on the Kitchenaid website, there is no doubt that they have one in place, especially after the twitter crisis mentioned above.

Overall I think that a SMP should attempt to address all potential legal social media risks imaginable, while maintaining a strong focus on reputation and privacy of confidential information. It’s important to have a policy for employees to be familiar with what they can and cannot be posting on social media sites, on behalf of the business and even on their own personal sites, as well as the ramifications of this. A great article that I came across that I think summarises what a social media plan should have is 10 Must-Haves For Your Social Media Policy.

Thanks for learning with me about social media legal risks in relation to Kitchenaid. I always appreciate any comments, feedback or examples you would like to share 🙂

References:

Kitchenaid USA: Handling a Twitter Crisis

Kitchenaid Official Website

99 Social Media Stats for 2012

Managing Your Company’s Social Media Risks

The Risks of Social Media: Legal Limits

5 Social Media Risks for Companies and Employees

Do organisations need social media policies?

Legal Risks of Social Networking for Business