Up “that” creek with no paddle? Here’s how to avoid a social media disaster



We have all heard how terribly embarrassing it can be to experience the mob justice effect of a Twitter frenzy should a tweet (that was meant to be a direct message go public by “mistake”) or, how damaging a personal post on Facebook can be when someone shares their private point of view on a certain topic only to have the post shared over and over again by friends, journalists and critics.

A perfect example of this is the #HasJustineLandedYet debacle of December 2013, when Justine Sacco (the then Director of Corporate Communications for IAC) tweeted the infamous tweet “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” or more recently when Cheryl Rios, the CEO of Go Ape Marketing declared on Facebook earlier this week that women aren’t fit for the U.S. presidency.

In our previous blogs we have discussed how important it is for any business/ brand or personality to have a handle on what is being said about them on various online mediums and by doing so manage their online reputation. But what happens if you are the business/ brand or personality and, what happens if you missed our previous discussions and now find yourself in the proverbial “hot water” or up “that” creek with no paddle?

What messures can you take to stop this from happening in future?

Social media mishaps can have dire consequences for both the employees involved and the company, as IAC and Go Ape Marketing have learned and, as social media usage continues to increase so does the likelihood of the lines between our work lives and personal lives being blurred or merged into one, the consequence of this is that companies are finding themselves thrust into a scrutinizing spotlight.

But while there’s no predicting how people on social media might react to an employee’s thoughtless comment, controversial statement or silly joke, companies are able to minimise or even prevent this type of incident from even taking place to begin with, and here is how.

Prevention is better than a cure

Social media policies are common place in nearly all companies in South Africa that have a digital presence today but, we believe that while this does make it clear what employees are not meant to do and what will happen should the employee act in a manner that is seen as a breach of these policies, what’s missing is the training aspect. It’s precisely like using the carrot and the stick scenario, just in this case minus the carrot.

This is simply because not everyone understands what’s private and public or what you can and can’t be said and, most importantly employees don’t grasp or have never been educated as to why any of this is important.

Companies that have regular training sessions on what social media best practises are or even just a monthly tip or reminders in their internal communication emails have a better chance of countering or defusing a potentially devastating situation like the ones mentioned above.

The reason for this is simple

An informed employee not only feels more confident about their role in their respective company but they also have a clearer viewpoint of what their company’s role is in the public space. Also a confident employee that clearly understands the importance of following a social media policy understands their role in its implementation and the consequences (both personally and professionally) of not following it is. These kinds of employees more likely to become good brand ambassadors for their company and ultimately make a positive contribution to its success in future.

Should you need any advice on creating and implementing a social media policy in your company we welcome you to contact us here.