Digital marketing and social media are like an iceberg. What’s visible – the power to reach a global audience, engage in real-time, and create impactful brand narratives – is just a fraction of the story. Below the surface lies a complex array of challenges and responsibilities that businesses must master to navigate these waters successfully.

Above the Water: The visible benefits of digital marketing and social media

The allure of digital marketing and social media in business is undeniable. These tools offer unprecedented access to global markets, breaking down geographic barriers and enabling even small businesses to establish a worldwide presence. With targeted advertising and customer segmentation, companies can craft highly personalised and effective marketing campaigns. These strategies aren’t just about reach; they’re about resonating with the right audience at the right time.

Cost-effectiveness is another major draw. Digital marketing, especially through social media, often offers a more budget-friendly alternative to traditional advertising methods. The real-time tracking and analysis of digital campaigns provide insights that can’t be matched, allowing businesses to tweak their strategies for maximum return on investment.

But perhaps the most captivating aspect of social media is its ability to humanise brands. It’s a platform for storytelling, for building brand loyalty and awareness through consistent, engaging content. It facilitates a two-way conversation, allowing businesses to engage directly with their audience, garner instant feedback, and foster a community around their brand.

Below the Surface: The hidden risks and responsibilities

Beneath these obvious benefits lies a complex array of risks and responsibilities. The rapid pace and constant evolution of the digital landscape necessitate comprehensive social media policies. These policies must extend beyond professional usage to encompass personal social media activities of employees, given their potential impact on the business.

Striking a balance between your company’s interests and employees’ rights is crucial. Social media policies must safeguard the company’s reputation and security without encroaching on individual privacy rights. They should be broad enough to cover various social media forms yet sensible and specific to ensure efficacy.

Keeping these policies up to date is critical, as the realms of social media and legal regulations are continually changing. Collaboration with legal advisors in formulating these policies ensures compliance with current laws and regulations.

Rulings by the Council for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) have underscored the importance of having explicit social media guidelines. These cases highlight the potentially severe consequences for both employees and employers stemming from inappropriate social media use. In the case of Edcon Limited v Cantamessa and Others, a senior specialist buyer’s inappropriate racial remarks on Facebook led to her termination, as she was identified on her profile as an Edcon employee. This case sets a precedent, illustrating how employees’ online behaviour can directly impact a company’s public image and legal standing.

For businesses, the first step is to craft a social media policy that reflects the company’s culture and minimises the risks associated with online behaviour. This policy should:

Define ‘Social Media’: Clearly outline what constitutes social media, including platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, and emerging channels like TikTok. Given the dynamic nature of social media, the policy should be adaptable to encompass new platforms as they gain popularity.

Set clear boundaries: The policy should delineate acceptable and unacceptable behaviours, both during and outside work hours. It should address potential issues like offensive comments, breach of confidentiality, and misuse of intellectual property.

Outline consequences: Employees need to understand the ramifications of breaching the social media policy, up to and including termination of employment. Regular reviews and updates to the policy are crucial to keep it relevant.

Balance employee interests: While protecting the company’s reputation and security, the policy must also respect employees’ right to privacy. A sensible approach would be to enforce the policy judiciously, ensuring it doesn’t overreach into the personal lives of employees.

Once the policy is in place, the next step is effective implementation and training. Regular training sessions will help employees understand the risks and responsibilities associated with social media use. This approach not only educates employees but also prepares management to handle potential issues proactively.

The digital landscape is constantly shifting, making it imperative for businesses to periodically review and update their social media policies. This agility ensures that the policy remains effective and relevant in a rapidly changing environment.

The domain of digital marketing and social media in business is layered and multifaceted. The apparent benefits are just the tip of the iceberg. Beneath the surface lies a world of strategic policy development, risk management, and legal considerations. Businesses willing to delve into these depths and navigate these complexities can reap significant rewards. The true power of digital marketing and social media, much like an iceberg, lies in what’s beneath the surface.

Article by Annelien Breed

Executive Director at CEO SA

& Carlien Nienaber

Social Media Specialist at CEO SA