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Take public sector's lead on social media, says KPMG

Social media seen as ‘distraction’ by private businesses

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Private companies in the UK should follow the example set by organisations in the public sector when it comes to social media or risk widespread reputational damage, according to global advisory firm KPMG.

In a report published this week, KPMG said the British private sector’s failure to adapt to the demands of social media poses a threat to the bottom line, as inadequate responses to online activity contribute to service disruption and low levels of customer satisfaction.

Its survey of over 1,000 senior business executives suggest that problems arise because a significant proportion of businesses across the private sector view social networking as a ‘distraction from work’, which should be ignored.

The KPMG research further noted that 1 in 5 executives in the financial services sector claim that social media should not be accessible in the workplace.  The same belief was held by 1 in 3 of those in the design and media sectors – but these figures compare to less 1 in 10 across the public sector.

It also appears that employers across the private sector are unable to distinguish between professional and personal use of social media sites and tools, by their employees. The result, according to KPMG, is a high level of exposure to fraud and data theft, with many organisations falling victim to ‘phishing’ scams or leaking sensitive information.

David Elms, Partner and Head of the Media sector at KPMG, felt that organisations across the private sector are usually the first to put measures in place protecting intellectual property and reputation.

"It seems, however, that the cautious approach to social media that many of us exercise as consumers has, so far, failed to materialise in the workplace. The same cannot be said of organisations operating within the public sector as the evidence suggests a more mature approach to social media," he told CFO World.

"It may be born out of the fear of the repercussions that lost data will bring, or recognition that there is duty of care to manage information securely.  Whatever the driving force, it is clear that UK industry needs to follow this lead," Elms added.

The results of the KPMG survey go on to reveal that public sector organisations are more likely to restrict use of personal accounts for sharing work-related information than their private sector counterparts.

For instance, 65 percent of public sector bodies think that it is unacceptable for employees to ‘use personal accounts to post on behalf of their employer’, but employers within telecommunications (43 percent), financial services (29 percent) and retail (28 percent) take a more relaxed approach

It is clear that the key driver behind the public sector’s tougher stance on social media etiquette rests in fears over the impact of litigation.

One in 3 respondents believe that ‘court action’ will increase if organisations maintain a cavalier approach to online postings – a figure that is higher amongst public sector employees (28 percent) than their counterparts across the financial services (25 percent) and telecommunications sectors (24 percent).


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