Social media policy, what is it good for? Absolutely everything! – Week 7

Organizations engaging in social media can find themselves in high waters if they don’t have a suitable social media policy in place.  This is especially true for organizations where brand reputation drives business.

I came across an article in Mashable that did a great job of illustrating the importance of a good social media strategy can help mitigate risk for both employers and their employees, by exposing some of the biggest social media mishaps.

Example 1 – The Gap uses Sandy to drive sales

This past Monday the Gap found itself in a sticky social media situation when a mildly insensitive tweet rubbed victims of Hurricane Sandy the wrong way. Monday afternoon, as the storm was hit York and New Jersey, Gap tweeted the following:

They ended up taking the post down and apologizing with the following:

To all impacted by , stay safe. Our check-in and tweet earlier were only meant to remind all to keep safe and indoors.

The post irritated some customers. Here’s an example of a response to the apology. I didn’t get a chance to view the reply tweets to Gap’s original tweet, since they were pretty quick to take it down.

@Gap Try taking a break from being shill for a couple of days instead of trying to tie in a life-threatening storm warning to your ads?

Example 2 – Teacher looses job over Facebook posts

After posting photos and status updates on Facebook from her personal account which included photos showing her drinking on her European vacation, Ashley Payne, a Barrow County, Georgia teacher was asked to resign.

The photographs also included her visits to the Guinness Brewery and a local pub in Dublin. Although her Facebook page was private she had other teaches from her school as friends, and eventually came to the attention of the principle. She was told to resign or face a suspension.

Payne decided to sue the school district in because she was “not made aware of her rights.”

Example 3 – Red Cross Post Rogue Tweet

Whereas, these two examples show how social media can be debilitating, the Red Cross managed to turn a rogue tweet around and use it to their advantage to increase donations.

It all started when Red Cross social media specialist Gloria Huang tweeted the following on the organization’s Twitter feed:

The tweet stayed up for about an hour until Wendy Harman, started getting calls about it in the middle of the night and took it down.

In a later tweet on the employee said the message was meant for her private account and blamed the incident on her lack of facility with Hootsuite.

Although a few blogs picked up the tweet, the Red Cross was able to avert a crisis by turning things around using humor to acknowledge and apologize for the original Tweet.

At the same time Dogfish Head beer picked up the #gettingslizzard, the subject of the original tweet acknowledged the incident by asking fans to donate to the Red Cross.

Mistakes happen. The Red Cross recovered nicely from the incident, and benefited from the blunder by rolling with #getting slizzard to increase donations. Had the tweet been more damaging there may have been a different fate for the employee. The apology went a long way. People understand that everybody makes mistakes. This incident helped to humanize the Red Cross in a way because they acted quickly and transparently.

Examples like thes are why more organizations are opting to put social media policies into place.  Having a well thought out and well written policy can be useful to both parties; It mitigates risk for the employer resulting from employees engaging on the social web, and offer guidelines and outlines expectations to employees. It provides both parties with a clearer picture of what the expectations re. According to Social Media ROI, a social media policy serves the following key purposes:

  • Define a framework of both sanctioned and responsible social media policy internal to an organization
  • Address responsible social media usage outside the company walls.
  • Discuss the organization’s expectations of employee behavior on the social web (not official rules but expectations)
  • Be a source of information, insight advice and training for employees with questions.

Having a social media policy does not always keep you in the clear. The GAP most likely has a social media policy in place, but it doesn’t stop bad judgement on your employees’ part. In addition to having a well versed policy, it’s important to have a crisis strategy in place to deal with blunders both large and small. There are always risks that come with social media, but if it’s done right the rewards can be huge. Even small slip-ups, like with the Red Cross can be steered in the right direction and present new opportunities to engage with customers.

Do you think if the School Board that Ashley Payne worked for has a social media policy in place, they would have been able to avoid the lawsuit with Ashley Payne.


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