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Manage social media like typical marketing

Social media is an effective marketing and public relations tool that companies are embracing. Right now, 77 of the world’s 100 largest companies maintain Twitter accounts. While the potential for meaningful engagement with consumers, prospects, employees, shareholders, and others makes these services a great place to engage, there’s a darker side.

A recent example involves British entertainment company HMV. In an article for Forbes, Susan Adams explains how HMV got into hot water. In an effort to right its balance sheet HMV laid off 190 employees. Sixty were let go in a mass firing. Unfortunately for HMV, Poppy Rose was one of those employees. Rose began work for HMV a couple of years earlier as an intern who took on the task of posting on the company’s Twitter account. She grew the position into that of community manager.


During the meeting, Rose began tweeting about the firing and created the hashtag #hmvXFactorFiring: “There are over 60 of us being fired at once! Mass execution, of loyal employees who love the brand. #hmvXFactorFiring”

One minute later: “Sorry we’ve been quiet for so long. Under contract, we’ve been unable to say a word, or — more importantly — tell the truth #hmvXFactorFiring”

Fourteen minutes later: “Just overheard our Marketing Director (he’s staying, folks) ask ‘How do I shut down Twitter?’ #hmvXFactorFiring”

When asked for the password, Rose provided it. But once shut off from the HMV account, she continued to tweet on her own account. HMV made a mistake companies make every day: not taking social media seriously. At least not until damage is done.

Consider the fiasco Chrysler faced when an employee for an outside firm that worked with Chrysler tweeted the following on Chrysler’s Twitter feed: “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity, and yet no one here knows how to *&%#* drive.”


Chrysler tried to limit the damage by removing the tweet and posting: “Our apologies — our account was compromised earlier today. We are taking steps to resolve it.” But the tweet obviously hurt its image.

The lesson? Along with the marketing benefits of social media comes the responsibility to manage it with as much care as traditional marketing and public relations.

E-mail questions about business etiquette to etiquetteatwork@emilypost.com.