Don't let social media become your nightmare

Don’t Let Social Media Become Your Nightmare


It’s the spookiest day of the year and on this All Hallow’s Eve, we’re reminded of some of the scariest incidences of social media run amuck. You know the ones. Maybe it was an attempt at humor that just wasn’t quite that funny. Or maybe it was an employee mistakenly posting something personal on the company account. Or maybe it was a disgruntled employee who decided to go rogue and trash the company for the entire world to see.

As a company that prides itself on maintaining a happy and healthy culture for its employees, it’s enough to send chills down our spines! But take heart – even when the most frightening social media mishaps occur, knowing how to handle them can actually improve and bolster your brand’s reputation. And if you’re like us and you truly value your employees, then it’s important to combine an effective social media strategy with an employee advocacy strategy to:

*  Minimize long-term damage to your brand’s reputation.

*  Have supporters in your corner to back up your brand.

*  Know how and when to deal with social media blunders.

*  Prevent social media flubs from happening in the first place.

When Social Media Becomes a Nightmare

Taco Bell employee licking taco shells

A good (or bad?) example of a lack of strategy comes courtesy of Taco Bell. The fast food chain had to deal with a proverbial firestorm that erupted on social media thanks to an image went viral featuring an employee licking a stack of taco shells. Yuck! A representative from the company responded by indicating they would be conducting a “full scale investigation,” into the origins of the photo and assured they’d take “swift action against those involved.”

While an appropriate response, it felt a bit panned and was too corporate to really be effective or believable. It didn’t speak directly to customers or even treat them (and their concerns about the risk of consumers eating tainted taco shells) with the personal touch required for such a situation. What the fast food chain should have done was ditch the corporate speak and fire up their own employee advocates to speak up, defend the brand, and maintain consumer confidence.

Another example comes from HMV. The British music retailer had a very public issue when its social media planner took to Twitter to provide a play-by-play of major layoffs occurring in the office at that moment. “There are over 60 of us being fired at once! Mass execution of loyal employees who love the brand,” one tweet read. It turns out the person responsible for the exposé style tweets was Poppy Rose Cleere, the former HMV social media planner. She said she hijacked the company’s Twitter account because the senior staff had “never seemed to grasp,” just how powerful social media is in building customer relationships. Her point was resolutely proven when she overheard the company’s Marketing Director ask, “How do I shut down Twitter?” Ouch.

HMV tweet

A company who had a better handle on this was JCPenney. Back in May, the department store had a billboard that featured a teapot, which is about as innocuous as you can get. However, because the teapot seemed to share an uncanny resemblance to Adolf Hitler, it proved to be a recipe for a social media disaster.JCPenney Teapot Debacle

While silly on the surface, something as ridiculous as this can actually affect a brand’s reputation, especially if they respond to it the wrong way. Thankfully, JCPenney reacted fairly quickly on the social media front, responding to anyone and everyone who tweeted about the dictatorial teapot with a variation of this message, “Totally unintended. If we’d designed it to look like something, we would have gone with a snowman or something fun.”

Was it the most creative response? Maybe not. And the fact that they said nearly the exact same thing to everyone who talked about it on social was a bit tedious. Still, something must be said for their unified front on the issue. They likely had some sort of consolidated strategy in place that allowed employees to advocate on behalf of the brand, and encouraged them to do so on social.

Preventing Disaster

When a company has a full social media and employee advocacy strategy in place, employees can think on their feet and act in the best interest of the company. They support the company and they’re well armed to react in an appropriate way when potential disaster strikes. It gives them the freedom and knowledge to make sound decisions within a set framework. It allows for cohesive brand representation that is well thought out and timely while encouraging engagement and interaction with customers.

An excellent example of a situation that could have been a disaster but was promptly nipped in the bud by a brilliant response comes from Next Media Animation. When an employee posted an enthusiastic I Quit video online, the Taiwanese video animation company could have cowered in a corner or taken a corporate-speak response. But they didn’t. Instead, the company made their own version of the video called, We’re Hiring. What could have been a recruiting disaster became a fun way to show off the company’s playful side. They were sure to boast about their rooftop pool and propensity for dancing before mentioning they had an open position available.

Next Media Animation - I QuitNext Media Animation - We're Hiring


Though there are a lot of great things about this video, the best thing was the fact that you can actually see all the employee advocates in this company. They all banded together to create the video and it got millions of hits. What could have soured a company’s reputation as an unsavory place to work became an opportunity to publicly display how unified and happy their team really is.

So you see, social media disasters can be averted if you have all the right tools in place. And though you can’t build support from employees like this overnight, you can continually engage and empower employees and earn their support over time. By offering the right amount of knowledge and assistance, you can grow your army of employee advocates to back you up in a crisis, anytime, any place. By being proactive and implementing a social media strategy coupled with an employee advocacy strategy, you can be prepared for virtually anything–even those scary social things that go bump in the night.

Post Author

Jim Larrison

Jim Larrison is the Co-Founder & General Manager at Dynamic Signal. He is responsible for overseeing the company’s direction, product innovation, and market strategy to become a global provider of SaaS based advocate and social marketing enterprise solutions for leading Global 2K brands. Jim lives in the Chicago area with his wife and two sons. Jim is an influential movie fanatic, local politico, blogger, and photographer. On weekends, you can catch him on the sidelines of his sons' football or lacrosse games with a few Nikon cameras around his neck.