Social media is a fantastic way of engaging with existing and prospective customers.
Whatever your business, and regardless of size, it’s never been easier to expand your reach to anywhere in the world.
But while social media has revolutionised marketing it can also cause a number of problems for your organisation and its staff.
At the beginning of 2018 a number of high profile disasters revealed how social media activity, whether it took place in the present or years before an employee was taken on, can leave both individuals and their respective organisations with egg on their faces.
High profile social media disaster
Perhaps the highest profile social media disaster was the hiring and almost immediate firing of Toby Young.
A mere eight days after he was taken on by the government as a university regulator, the self-described “journalist provocateur” was forced to tend his resignation due to highly inappropriate and offensive comments Young made on social media.
None of these comments had been made during his short tenure. But tweets sent, in some cases almost a decade ago came back to haunt him.
As this episode demonstrates, it doesn’t matter how long ago the comments were made or the context they were made in, social media faux pas can still have a detrimental impact on your career and the organisation you represent.
It’s reported that Young even deleted 50,000 tweets in a bid to save his role but to no avail.
However, it can often be impossible to completely erase what’s known as your digital footprint if your comments have been retweeted and if those with an agenda have taken screenshots of your statements.
Arguably Young is in a unique position – he has held several high profile roles (in both the media and politics) and, as he has admitted, built his career on stirring up controversy.
But even employees or business owners, that have lived in relative anonymity, can find themselves at the centre of a social media disaster as a result of online carelessness. This can have devastating consequences for individuals and businesses.
Small business social media disaster
As reported in the Guardian Laura Goodman, head chef and co-owner of Carlini restaurant, which has branches in Shifnal and Albrighton, Shropshire, soon regretted comments she made on a closed Facebook group.
Taking exception to dietary requests made by her customers Goodman wrote: “Pious, judgmental vegan (who I spent all day cooking for) has gone to bed, still believing she’s a vegan.”
We don’t know how many satisfied diners have had a wonderful culinary experience in Goodman’s restaurant, in the years she has been cheffing.
We don’t know whether Goodman was suffering from the stress of what is already a demanding job, on top of the pressures of running your own business.
We don’t know how demanding these diners were and whether they were being unreasonable with their requests. We don’t even know if Goodman’s comments were true or not (and it would be difficult to prove whether she did actually carry out the nefarious deeds she boasted of).
All we know is that her comments severely upset vegans and non-vegans alike and soon went viral, hitting the mainstream press and causing her business a social media disaster. The restaurant’s TripAdvisor and Google pages were soon overwhelmed with complaints.
While the episode is likely to have a significant impact on Goodman’s business it has also impacted her personal life. As well as finding herself a hate figure it turns out the co-owner of her small restaurant is also her fiancé.
As a result, the couple have received death threats and legal action so it’s perhaps an understatement that her fiancé is quoted as saying their “world has been turned upside down”.
So what steps can businesses take to ensure they don’t find themselves soiling a hard-earned reputation?
Avoid social media disaster with a social media policy
A social media policy outlines how an organisation and its employees should conduct themselves online. This document helps to safeguard your reputation but also encourages employees (who are potentially your brand’s greatest ambassadors) to promote your organisation.
Because social media is constantly evolving, this policy should be considered a living document that is updated regularly.
It should be broken into two sections.
- Social media policy for the company’s official accounts
- Social media policy for employees
We have addressed exactly what should be covered in a social media policy in this blog here.
But of course, if you would like guidance on any aspect of social media for your business then please get in touch.