PR Mishaps and Social Media Hijacking: Have We Learned Nothing?

Feb 15, 2013

Admit it: we’ve all experienced that split second where we consider using social media to vent. But most of us quickly step back into reality and realize that might not be the best idea – especially when it comes to our place of business.

This wasn’t the case last month for struggling UK entertainment retailer HMV. The company’s official Twitter account was hijacked by a 21-year old intern whose tweets about a live ‘mass execution’ claimed that employees were being fired 60 at a time. The tweets quickly went viral, being shared over a thousand times.

 “We’re tweeting live from HR where we’re all being fired! #hmvXFactorFiring” was the first tweet to be broadcast to HMV’s 61,500 followers. But it didn’t end there as many aaaaaaaaaaaanewly-fired workers joined in on the frenzy, airing the company’s dirty laundry. The tweets claimed overall mismanagement, unpaid workers and illegal interns. Some even went as far as taking jabs at their own social media-challenged boss, tweeting: “Just overheard our Marketing Director (he’s staying, folks) ask ‘How do I shut down Twitter?’”

This PR debacle couldn’t have come at a worse time for HMV as it struggles with bankruptcy. Company administrators later confirmed that about 190 jobs had been cut.

As amusing as hijacking a Twitter account may seem at first, these social media mishaps – which are becoming more frequent in the workplace, could largely have been prevented.

Of course, getting rid of social media isn’t really an option for any consumer-facing company these days. But all companies, especially those that have gathered a large following on social media sites, should know who has access to their corporate accounts.

Providing passwords to interns and recent hires without proper training and discussion about your company’s social media strategy is never a good idea. Even if your company doesn’t run into an issue like the one HMV did, poor messaging and branding across platforms is not the way to put your company on the social media map.

But don’t stop there; seasoned social media executives should know their trade better than anyone. If your company’s director of marketing doesn’t know how to “shut down Twitter” it may be time to clean house or at the very least send him or her off to a social media workshop or two.

As Twitter and Facebook continue to grow into critical communication tools and, ultimately, essential parts of any successful business, companies should remember that those same tools can damage their reputation and, most importantly, their bottom line.

We certainly do!  Back in 2010, we dismissed an employee who proceeded to take down our Facebook page AND Twitter account as revenge for having been fired.  So we learned the hard way but that doesn’t mean your company has to.

You can be absolutely sure it will happen again (but not at ThinkInk, of course), bringing on ridicule – and hard lessons – for some brands and a lot of laughs for others.

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