Social media is an impactful marketing and public relations tool that companies are embracing. Right now, 77 of the world’s 100 largest companies maintain a corporate Twitter account. While the potential for meaningful engagement with consumers, prospects, employees, shareholders and others makes these spaces a great place to engage, there’s a darker side to business etiquette.
A recent example of how Twitter can suddenly boomerang involves British entertainment company HMV. In an article for Forbes, Susan Adams explains how HMV got into social media hot water. In an effort to right its balance sheet the company laid off 190 employees. Sixty of them were let go in a mass meeting. Unfortunately for HMV, Poppy Rose was one of the employees in this mass firing. It turns out Rose began work for the company a couple of years earlier as an intern who took on the task of posting on the company’s Twitter account. She grew the position into that of community manager.
During the meeting, Rose began tweeting about the firing and created the hash tag #hmvXFactorFiring:
“There are over 60 of us being fired at once! Mass execution, of loyal employees who love the brand. #hmvXFactorFiring”
One minute later:
“Sorry we’ve been quiet for so long. Under contract, we’ve been unable to say a word, or –more importantly – tell the truth #hmvXFactorFiring
Fourteen minutes later:
“Just overheard our Marketing Director (he’s staying, folks) ask “How do I shut down Twitter?” #hmvXFactorFiring
When asked for the account password, Rose provided it. But once shut off from using the HMV Twitter account, she continued to tweet on her own account.
HMV made a mistake companies make everyday: not taking social media seriously. At least not until damage is done.
Consider the fiasco Chrysler faced when one of the employees for an outside firm that worked on social media with Chrysler tweeted the following on Chrysler’s Twitter feed:
“I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity, and yet no one here knows how to *&%#* drive.”
While Chrysler quickly tried to limit the damage by removing the tweet and posting: “Our apologies - our account was compromised earlier today. We are taking steps to resolve it” the tweet obviously hurt its brand image, particularly in its hometown.
Social media is an impactful marketing and public relations tool that companies are embracing. But along with the marketing benefits comes responsibility to manage social media with as much care as traditional marketing and public relations efforts are managed. Anything less will inevitably lead to negative publicity and hurt brand image. Just ask Chrysler and HMV.
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