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Gini Dietrich

Three Things You Can Learn about Social Media from HMV

By: Gini Dietrich | February 12, 2013 | 
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By now you’ve probably heard the story of the HMV employee gone rogue as a group of them were let go at once.

“We’re tweeting live from HR where we’re all being fired! Exciting!! #hmvXFactorFiring,” read the initial message from @HMVtweets, which has more than 70,000 Twitter followers.

This happened while 60 employees at the 91-year-old company were laid off during a round of downsizing.

Through seven subsequent tweets, Poppy Rose Cleere, the company’s newly axed 21-year-old online marketing and social media planner, aired the company’s dirty laundry to the world.

By the time the marketing director gained control of the account and deleted the offending messages, the damage had already been done…and the screen grabs had already been taken.

The tweets had gone viral and images were shared around the world.

The blogosphere first took notice (I saw it in several Facebook groups) and, by the next morning, every major news outlet was covering the story.

For the company, which just received bankruptcy protection, the PR debacle had extremely bad timing.

Making Hard Decisions

As a business owner who has had to do a round of layoffs, this is extremely painful. Sometimes you have to make decisions that are best for the health of the company and, unfortunately, that means letting people go.

I don’t consider layoffs as people being fired, but I know it doesn’t feel any differently to those on the other side of the desk.

I also don’t think it’s the wisest idea to tell everyone at once, though I understand when it’s a group as large as HMV let go, you have to do it as quickly and painlessly as possible or everyone starts to talk and speculate and create rumors.

I wasn’t going to write about this debacle until I read a blog post yesterday Yvette Pistorio wrote for a client…and she freaked me out!

Wake-Up Call

In it, she talked about how company social media accounts should have one universal password that is as easy to shut down as a person’s email account if they leave.

Um…

As it turns out, my team keeps social media passwords in a centrally located, and locked down, file we can all access. But I’ll admit I had to look in there yesterday to be sure.

But there are two other things you should consider for the organization’s social media accounts:

  • Centralize all the networks. We use Hootsuite for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+. With the exception of Facebook, I am one of the admins on the other accounts. On Facebook, there are three people as admins so, if one person leaves, the other two can lock it down.
  • Control access through limited permissions. If you insist on giving junior employees the keys to your social networks, do so with caution. There are tools now (Hootsuite included) that allow you to assign permissions so junior-level employees can draft messages, but someone more senior has to approve them before they can be published. This kind of access probably would have saved Applebee’s from their PR crisis last week.

Yvette and I joked about this yesterday and she assured me she’d never go rogue. I don’t believe she would, but as an organization gets bigger, it’s impossible to understand the motivations of every, single person who works with you.

These kinds of things not only keep you safe from rogue employees, but they’re smart.

How do you manage social media so the company isn’t vulnerable to an angry employee?

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

113 comments
WebProSam
WebProSam

This should also be a lesson for people who "outsource" their social media posting such as pro footballers. You should never give anyone direct access to your social media accounts. To be safe you give their application (you mentioned Hoosuite) access, so you can revoke it if needed.

ZedASolutions
ZedASolutions

Nice share keep up the good work. Increased my Knowledge + Confidence.

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

So I am very confused. I for some reason thought HMV was a french luxury goods retailer vs a dying chain of stores that sells CDs AKA Blockbuster/Music Warehouse etc.

 

What 21 year old hot shot goes to work for a company like that? One everyone knows is dying? I mean who buys CDs these days? What 21 year old?

 

This is a bizarre story @ginidietrich  And no @belllindsay you can not have them as a client. LMVH different story 8)

charitychap
charitychap

@zoeamar how interesting that they use it to say "keep passwords from disgruntled employees", not "don't disgruntle your employees"!

PattiRoseKnight
PattiRoseKnight

I strongly suggest a qualified person be in charge of a company's social media networks but at the very least I can't stress enough how important it is to stay involved if you have a junior person handling your social media networks.  A reputation is just too important in my opinion.  

wagnerwrites
wagnerwrites

Also want to mention that the communications director of my largest nonprofit client was fired last year and they couldn't access their YouTube account for many months. YouTube wasn't very helpful. Fortunately, they had access to Facebook because I had insisted they create multiple admins. 

wagnerwrites
wagnerwrites

You are so right that it's impossible to understand how employees will act under this kind of intense stress. Years ago, I "survived" a large layoff at a technology company but while we were sitting around waiting for the hammer to fall, my colleague confessed that if he found out he was going to be laid off, he would just wipe his hard drive. (This was before there were sophisticated tools to recover data.) I was shocked. He was a very straight-laced, religious, financial analyst - the last person you'd think would do something like this. But he was also newly married, had just bought a house, and had been attracted away from a good job to take this one. So yeah, for a short time, he was really dangerous. 

Gracecleere
Gracecleere

@howiegoldfarb I hope she and you are proud of what a 'man' you have become. #Hysterical

Gracecleere
Gracecleere

@howiegoldfarb in this world have more life experience than 30 somethings. I'm going to assume you had/have mother issues.

Gracecleere
Gracecleere

@howiegoldfarb crisis blog. HMV were never a 'billion dollar brand'. No experience in life? What planet are you living on? Some 12 year olds

Gracecleere
Gracecleere

@howiegoldfarb Oh good lord I hope you can see what you 'sound' (read) like. 'Little girl?' Really? I don't intend to read your mid-life

TonyBennett
TonyBennett

This is so wild; sometimes I think I live under a rock because I didn't hear anything of this until I came to my primary newssource - spin sucks.  Oh wait, I do live under an instarock, that explains it.

 

As for future rogue Arment Dietrich staffers, I'm sure dozen's have already pointed the finger at Lindsay, so there's no need to pile on.

Latest blog post: GooglePlus « So Genius

jelenawoehr
jelenawoehr

OK, I'm gonna say it: I feel bad for her and, although I don't agree with her actions, I think the employer is partly at fault. It does sound like they didn't understand the importance of social media--and the fact that they had one junior employee in charge of it solo proves that. The Marketing Director didn't know how to access the company Twitter account?! 

 

Obviously there are big things wrong with HMV. The company is failing and bankrupt. Watching a company you love and believe in fail is agonizing, especially when the cause is mismanagement so outrageous it's clear even to the most junior staff that the company could have been saved. (I'm extrapolating here and projecting a bit, but there IS that little thing about the Marketing Director not having the Twitter login... if that's exemplary of management at the company, draw your own conclusions.)

 

Someone like Gini doing a layoff would be able to make clear to even a very upset employee that their work was genuinely valued and that the decision is an absolute last resort. I know, because I was laid off at 21 by someone who has Gini's empathy. And someone so easily disgruntled that even that kind of kind, empathetic, as-fair-as-possible layoff conversation would have driven them to hijack the company Twitter... well, Gini probably wouldn't have hired them in the first place.

 

It sounds like a large group of employees were let go in an inconsiderate and sudden way that didn't offer any acknowledgement of their individual efforts. They were made to feel like numbers -- or like failed X Factor auditions, according to the rogue tweeter. She was still wrong (mostly because it sabotaged her own future) to go rogue, but I feel really badly for her and her colleagues.

bobbiklein
bobbiklein

I think people need to be sure who they are trusting to handle their brand's social media accounts. Social media is your storefront online. Even if one person is running it, there needs to be another person checking in from time to time to make sure this PR scare does not happen. 

Rodriguez247
Rodriguez247

As a community manager I've always thought that a company should have an internal employee as it's social media spokesperson, because after all, who knows your product better than someone that works with you. But as I see more and more cases like this one, I can't help to think that outsourcing your community management might be a wiser idea. This way you have complete control of the items that are posted, there is no conflict of interest and all communication remains confidential. If anything this is a great case study for all of us that offer that service to our clients.

Regardless  of how many companies are flocking to the HMV tweep, what she did is still ethically wrong, even if she wants to make it look as if it was a warning to people that still don't understand the power of these tools. 

LauraPetrolino
LauraPetrolino

I'm going to add a 4th thing, which is a rant I was forcing @KenMueller  to listen to me about yesterday. It is time that companies wake up and realize that every person you allow to be the 'voice' of your organization is in a very powerful position, thus hiring decisions should be treated accordingly. Just because someone knows how to tweet or post messages to facebook, doesn't mean that:

 

a) They know anything about communications, branding, positioning or messaging

b) They are a responsible ambassador for your company to put it's trust in.

 

And yet, over and over again these companies make hiring decisions based on a desire to keep costs low and hire inexperienced candidates to fill these important roles. As someone who is currently on the job hunt and has been told a half a dozen times in the past couple of weeks that I was not an ideal candidate because of my 'over qualification' for their position, it is mind boggling.

 

It clearly shows that although companies are (sometimes begrudgingly) seeing the need to have a digital communications strategy and team, they don't quite 'get' the fact that their digital communications are quite possibly the loudest brand message that they send.

 

So, until they do we will continue to see cases like this, which at the very least are amusing....however....

 

stevenmcoyle
stevenmcoyle

Why oh why did she have to be 21!

 

As someone who is 22, I hate to read things like this because it makes us 20-somethings all look bad. Employers already assume we're non-professional, and this makes it even harder to prove yourself. At 20, I had the same role as Poppy and would have never thought to do such a thing. I actually still have access to all those previous accounts.

 

I just hope people don't make this about her age.Her responses were very well thought out and she clearly has an understanding of the power of social media. I'm not defending her actions, but I do not think her actions was due to her age. 

Skipinder
Skipinder

@charitychap @zoeamar Interested too in the phrase 'If you insist on giving access to social media to junior staff'. hmmm

howiegoldfarb
howiegoldfarb

@gracecleere you are kidding right? i don't need to respond you have humiliated yourself on your own.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @jelenawoehr I don't disagree with you...I don't like how it sounds like they were all let go. And I kind of think it's awesome how she tweeted about it as it was happening. I love marvelous train wrecks like this. I really didn't think it was worth writing about until I read Yvette's post yesterday and freaking out about the controls that need to be put in place.

patmrhoads
patmrhoads

 @LauraPetrolino  Oh my gosh, can I like this about 20 more times? I've made this same rant before, and likened the person posting to social media as a spokesperson holding daily press conferences. A smart company wouldn't send someone they didn't trust out to speak to the public via the (traditional) media, so why do they think it's ok to do via social? Apparently, they just don't see it as the same thing, which I Just. Don't. Get.

LauraPetrolino
LauraPetrolino

 I'd also like to add that the vindictive side of me secretly hopes that one day I read an article like this about some of the companies that have recently given me the overqualified line, so I can pull a "Pretty Woman' on them

 

"Hi, you might remember me, I applied for your position a while back and you turned me down because I was 'overqualified'?, Yeah...well big mistake...BIG, HUGE! Ok, well I must now go off and continue making some other more savvy company awesome...ta ta" 

 

Just like that and strut away in a cute hat!

Keena Lykins
Keena Lykins

 @stevenmcoyle  I think her age is a factor only that 20-somethings look at what appropriate for social media differently than some of us who are older.  No, not all 20somethings would post what she did nor would all 40somethings NOT post what she did. Anyone can 'go rogue' although my questions are did she see it as going rogue or did she just tweet without thinking about the implications? 

HeatherTweedy
HeatherTweedy

 @stevenmcoyle Understanding the power of social media and understanding social media for business are two radically different things.  I think that her actions are a prime example of that.  

 

I agree that age isn't equal to maturity, but junior level employees often do lack business sense and an appreciation for their responsibility to the companies that they represent. However I agree with you &  @RebeccaTodd that it was an immature response, but not one that cam be blamed on age.  

RebeccaTodd
RebeccaTodd

 @stevenmcoyle I feel like her responses were a transparent attempt to justify her actions. I do not believe that that was her intent when she tweeted from the HMV account- do you? I think she acted very immaturely, then tried to make it seem like she had put thought in to her actions. Thanks for this comment, though. I started to go on about her age below, but then realized that isn't the real issue. I would not have done this at 21, and neither would any of the successful people that I know. Kudos to you for reminding me of that. 

charitychap
charitychap

@Skipinder @zoeamar ha! Exactly. I suspect the audience is senior and has experience of laying people off, not social media.

Gracecleere
Gracecleere

@howiegoldfarb You took the words right out of my mouth. Pathetic man.

TonyBennett
TonyBennett

@HowieG @ginidietrich I like where you're going, we'll call it spinnable... Cuz that sounds better than suckable

Latest blog post: GooglePlus « So Genius

Rodriguez247
Rodriguez247

 @ginidietrich The rogue tweet could have come from someone internally as well. The big difference is having someone that is not directly affected by the company's decisions, so that their message remain brand focused. The HMV tweet fiasco could have been averted by having it outsourced, the rogue tweet could happen to anyone that is not paying attention to what they are doing... both instances are related only by the medium, but are very different in occurrence. However, as much as this makes a great case for outsourcing, we stand that companies should have an internal individual well versed in Social Media. 

LauraPetrolino
LauraPetrolino

 @patmrhoads Exactly!!! There is just still such a disconnect and it is sooo aggravating!! In fact I'd say it is possibly even worse since at least the 'face' of the spokesperson is attached to their actions, where as in social most of the time it truly just is the brand that gets associated, since the 'spokesperson' is often faceless. People weren't 'seeing' Poppy, they were seeing HMV.....arrrgggghhhh <enter me throwing my arms around in Sicilian fits and stomping loudly>

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

There are two sides here. I just had an exchange with @gracecleere who called me out for the point of having someone so young with the keys to your public voice. In that case any big brand is crazy for doing so. That said HMV is in bankruptcy. Usually it happens because of poor upper management. So @hmvtweets  being here today with @ginidietrich roves that.

 

The second side is a company with most likely inept upper management doing things that are crappy to their employees.We don't know the inside story. @poppy_powers does. Maybe upper management lived like kings and queens and treated employees poorly. You can't stop employees from tweeting blogging etc already. But the social media folks could easily out them on official channels that never existed before. Maybe that would teach managers to be better managers?

LauraPetrolino
LauraPetrolino

 @KenMueller Thanks for that Kin (hehehe) I can think of nothing more horrible than people thinking I was lying about ranting! I appreciate you being my alibi. I also believe we have a transcript (in case anyone doesn't trust Ken...since he has been known to lie about winning the Pulitzer Prize)

stevenmcoyle
stevenmcoyle

 @Keena Lykins I don't think a professional 20 something looks at what's appropriate for a business social media platform any differently then a 40-something. She claims to have done it on behave of her co-workers because unlike them "she had nothing to lose." Does that mean this going rouge thing was a group effort? Only they can answer that. I just feel that if she was in her same position at 31, then she would have done the same thing. She made a conscious choice to post what she did. I agree that it was wrong of her, but I feel it's unfair to assume majority 20-something think like she does. 

jelenawoehr
jelenawoehr

 @HeatherTweedy  @stevenmcoyle  @RebeccaTodd I sympathize with her and I don't want to turn that around and condemn her individually now just to respond to the age conversation, but I was laid off (empathetically, kindly, with a focus on what I'd done for the company) at 21 and still had admin privileges for the company's website for the rest of the organization's relatively short life before it failed entirely. Never touched them. Most of my friends who are twenty-somethings would do exactly what I did: Laugh at the fact that they had forgotten to turn it off, briefly fantasize about revenge, then move on with the job hunt.

hessiej
hessiej

 @HeatherTweedy  @stevenmcoyle  @RebeccaTodd Understanding social media and its impacts is very much a corporate responsibility. The sad truth is that companies are still in the dark. They can't action hiring policies esp. with social media unless they understand it themselves. It's like the blind leading the blind. And when something goes wrong they scramble to fix it. YES I agree understanding communications, branding, customer service etc. are necessary in these types of community roles. But first, the companies need to get educated.

stevenmcoyle
stevenmcoyle

 @RebeccaTodd I do agree that her responses were a "cover-up" for her actions. Reading them I still would be apprehensive of working with her. I'm not sure what she hoped to achieve when tweeting from the HMV account. It seems a little misguided to want to provoke change by bashing a company you claim to have been "loyal" to.

 

Thank you for seeing this isn't an age thing, it's really a her thing. 

zoeamar
zoeamar

@charitychap @skipinder ......not a lot you can do to stop that

zoeamar
zoeamar

@charitychap @skipinder Also raises interesting question of disgruntled employees flaming organisation from personal Twitter accounts....

patmrhoads
patmrhoads

 @LauraPetrolino That's a really great point about the 'face' of the spokesperson. It's also then much easier afterward for a company to distance themselves from that person if they totally screw up.

RebeccaTodd
RebeccaTodd

 @jelenawoehr  @HeatherTweedy  @stevenmcoyle Excellent point, Jelena. I know of many mature young professionals, and immature "old" professionals (quotes because I am quickly becoming "old" myself). This is about personal ethics, not chronological age. 

ifdyperez
ifdyperez

 @RebeccaTodd  @stevenmcoyle Yes. It's an immaturity/unprofessional-thing. I wouldn't have done that either at 21 because I had long-term goals for my career. And this goes for anyone in any position at any age who doesn't lash out and burn bridges on their way out of a position. Maturity and professionalism. I think those are two questions to inquire about when hiring new staff.

RebeccaTodd
RebeccaTodd

 @stevenmcoyle Well I really don't think Gini would have done this at 21. Nor would I, nor would you. So we shall keep age out of the matter from here on in. Instead we will just call it immaturity- sound good? 

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