This article first appeared on my blog 6 years ago, but I think it is still relevant with updates and insights for today’s environment.
In 2010 many companies were still not not open to the idea of social media websites like Facebook and Twitter because they couldn’t censor customer comments. But another important consideration is employee social talk with both the positive and negatives. Look at football players for example. Over the years there have been numerous examples of players hurting their team, university, the sport or their own personal brands through rash Twitter comments.
In the NFL the Philadelphia Eagles had a Tweetgate, where they had to apologize for Todd Herremans’ anti-homosexual tweet. And Raven’s Ray Rice tweeted about getting out of a ticket because he bribed the officer with an autograph for his son. In college football an Oklahoma player was suspended following inappropriate Twitter comments he made following a shooting incident at the University of Texas. A Utah player sparked a controversy with a comment he made about Boise State before the upcoming Maaco Bowl in Las Vegas. These NFL and college teams may have a Twitter communication plan, but these are players acting and reacting on their own. What is needed beyond marketing or PR involvement in social media is employee social media policies and training.
An example of a company with a Twitter plan that encourages employees to Tweet is Zappos.com. In fact, there are just under 500 Zappos employees tweeting for the company. Sound like a management nightmare? They don’t seem to be tweeting off the cuff as much as football players. For example, two years ago the company had massive layoffs. Hundreds of employees reacted strongly on the company’s Twitter feed, but instead of a PR nightmare, it was something the company embraced. Instead of censoring laid off employees, Zappos remained as transparent as usual. In the end, employees appreciated it, management benefited and customers saw Zappos.com as a company from which they want to buy.
What’s the secret? Zappos invests heavily in employee training. They don’t just set them up with Twitter accounts and let them go. Zappos management equips employees with plenty of tools and guidelines to effectively tweet and represent the company online. The company also puts a lot of energy into hiring smart people.
Do you trust your company or organization’s employees with social media or could they benefit from some social media training?