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Social Media: A Powerful Tool

“Twitter is not a technology, it’s a conversation—and it’s happening with or without you.”

Charlene Li, author

Social media refers to any website or application that is designed to allow people to share content quickly, efficiently, and in real-time. The major social media platforms (at the moment) are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, and Snapchat. Social media is a double-edged sword. It can be a powerful tool for businesses to promote themselves. It can also lead to embarrassing public relations disasters that result in customers fleeing from the company’s products or services. In the past few years, we’ve seen some epic social medial fails.

What NOT to Do

  • Recently, Heinz Ketchup let a domain name lapse. The domain was taken over by someone who populated the site with pornography. Anyone who scanned the QR code on the back of thousands of Heinz bottles found themselves looking at adult content, rather than ketchup. Heinz apologized to the man in Germany who found the problem.
  • Few people have forgotten the bombing at the 2013 Boston Marathon – but it wasn’t on the minds of personnel at Adidas who sent a public email. In 2018, it sent out emails to customers it knew had completed the race. The email subject line said, “Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon.” The insensitive faux pas went viral on social media.
  • Recently, a British company, HMV, underwent a significant firing. Before issuing pink slips, they should have made sure the social networks were under control. Employees took the opportunity to live tweet the 60+ people getting sacked.
  • In 2014, the now-former CFO of Twitter, Anthony Noto, sent out an accidently public tweet that was supposed to be a direct message to someone. It was all about how he felt they had to buy someone’s company. Deemed an “M&A (mergers & acquisitions) fail,” at least it didn’t reveal the acquisition target.

What to Do

The above examples underscore the need for companies to have a social medial policy in place. Every message leaves an electronic trail. And employees should be aware of it and agree to adhere to it. The use of social media for personal purposes may have implications for the company.

Below are some policies many companies have put into place:

  • Monitoring employee use of social media, networking and similar communications. Employees are often informed that there should be no expectation of privacy in the use of the company’s internet connection, emails on company-owned equipment, networks or account, blogs, and instant messages.
  • Not authorizing employees to speak on behalf of the company on social media.
  • Making bloggers and commenters responsible for their commentary on blogs and social media sites.
  • Not permitting employees to use employer-owned equipment to conduct personal blogging or social networking activities.
  • Not allowing employees to post on personal blogs or other websites the name, logo of the company, or any business with a connection with the company.
  • Not allowing employees to post on personal blogs or social networking sites photographs of other employees or clients.
  • Not permitting employees to link from a personal blog or social networking site to the company’s website.

The world of social media is constantly changing. It’s difficult for individuals and companies to stay on top of the curve. Having a social media policy in place is one step companies can take help potentially avoid or mitigate social media disasters.

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