If You're Laying Off Your Social Media Expert, You Might Want To Get Those Account Passwords FIRST

from the because-the-situation-hadn't-hit-MAXIMUM-UNCOMFORTIBILITY dept

It's one of those mistakes you only make once. Unfortunately for British entertainment retailer HMV and consulting firm Deloitte, due to the circumstances under which the mistake occurred, once is all they got and once was all it took.

HMV was in the midst of a 190-person layoff (with assistance from Deloitte) when it discovered the company's official Twitter account was still in the hands of a layoffee.
Yesterday HMV, the beleaguered British entertainment retailer, laid off 190 employees, in an effort to cut costs and right its balance sheet. The company apparently pulled a large group into human resources and gave them the bad news. While this was going on, one employee, Poppy Rose, who had been an HMV community manager and thus had access to the corporate Twitter account, started live tweeting about the layoffs.

Over a period of around 20 minutes, she sent out a series of notes expressing her rising sense of alarm to HMV’s 61,500 followers (that number has since risen to 73,350).

Just before the plug was pulled, Poppy Rose gave a shout-out to its HMV's still-employed marketing director, who had noticed altogether too late that someone was live-Tweeting the layoffs. The question, "How do I shut down Twitter?" appears to have been answered by Chinese hackers (or maybe non-Chinese hackers -- hedging!), who made off with info from 250,000 accounts in the midst of some rolling blackouts.

A better question would have been: "Before we start laying people off, maybe someone should see who is running our social media accounts and whether or not they appear on the Employee Load Balancing Sheet." Employees often take to the modern day airwaves of Twitter, Facebook and presumably even Google+ to vent after layoffs, firings, disciplinary actions and random shitty days. Why anyone thought this mass layoff would be different is beyond me.

Most likely, the thought never occurred to anyone on the "culling" side of the equation until the Twitter feed began lighting up with disparaging comments about the current goings-on. HMV, in particular, was primed for this sort of embarrassment, seeing as it obviously felt a social media presence was important (hence the Twitter account), but not important enough to hand out to anyone higher than "intern" on the organizational chart. This is something more employers should be aware of, especially considering company Facebook and Twitter accounts are "standard equipment" in this day and age.

Poppy Rose, whose firing-related tweets added another 12,000 followers to HMV's Twitter account, clearly knows how to use social media. And although the tweets she fired off were far from complimentary, they clearly could have been much, much worse. Despite holding the company's online reputation in her newly-jobless hands, she showed restraint while simultaneously demonstrating how effective these tools can be.
“I wanted to show the power of Social Media to those who refused to be educated,” she tweeted. “Just to set something straight, I did not ‘hijack’ the hmv twitter account. I actually assumed sole responsibility of Twitter & Facebook over two years ago, as an intern. When asked (this afternoon), I gladly provided the password to head office. I also set another member of staff up as a manager on Facebook, and removed myself from the admin list. I didn’t resist any requests to cooperate.”
I'm sure many companies have viewed this story with interest, crossing themselves and saying, "There but for the grace of God go I and several dozen of my former employees, with signed NDAs and less-than-adequate severance packages." As ugly as a mass layoff is, failing to do a bit of due diligence in terms of your social media accounts leaves the door open for something much uglier. Sure, your former employees may take to the internet to vent about their treatment at your hands, but at least it won't look like it's coming out of your mouth.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    JoeCool (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 1:01pm

    Employee Load Balancing Sheet

    Hehehehe - that's almost as good as a previous winner of the double-speak award: they didn't fire anyone, but they did have "involuntary participants in the alternative career enhancement program." :D

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 1:08pm

    They just assumed that the accounts "belonged" to them. They had their name on them so they would just automatically revert to them once they fired the people running it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    arcan, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 1:14pm

    Re:

    more likely the twitter account never crossed their minds

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 1:21pm

    I would have been happy to hand the accounts back to them, but i currently am hiring myself out as a consultant an $1000 an hour, and i have a 40 hour minimum.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    Jessie (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 1:30pm

    Uh oh.

    Any bets on how long until she gets prosecuted for "hacking" their twitter feed?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Rekrul, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 1:30pm

    I'm sure many companies have viewed this story with interest, crossing themselves and saying, "There but for the grace of God go I and several dozen of my former employees, with signed NDAs and less-than-adequate severance packages."

    You're assuming that companies actually learn from the mistakes of others. So far I don't see any evidence to support that assumption.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    DannyB (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 1:38pm

    Re: Uh oh.

    An alternative to betting how long before the "hacking" charge would be to bet how many years or decades of prison time the prosecutor can come up with.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 1:39pm

    Just overheard our Marketing Director (he's staying, folks) ask "How do I shut down Twitter?" #hmvXFactorFiring

    It's easy, just piss away a few million by bribing some politicians into pushing for bad Internet laws and hope for the best.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 1:56pm

    Missed Opportunity

    If you had saved the line, "and presumably even Google+," for the comments, you could have pulled an early lead in the funny comments for the week.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 2:05pm

    Re: Re: Uh oh.

    Seeing as it's the UK and not the US, none at all: she was freely given access, and she freely relinquished access once requested. Now, if she'd not complied, then she could have theoretically been charged.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Mr. Applegate, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 2:09pm

    You can bet I would have tweeted, "Use this code FU-hmv and get a free _______."

    ...20 minutes later

    "Sorry, it was a misunderstanding folks that FU was meant for me letting me know that I was free to leave."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    icon
    ltlw0lf (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 2:35pm

    Re: Re:

    more likely the twitter account never crossed their minds

    I certainly agree with the later far more than the former. Up until it started hurting their corporate image, they probably didn't even remember they had one. After all, she said, I wanted to show the power of Social Media to those who refused to be educated. Since this is an entertainment company, I suspect they were blissfully ignorant of the internet (that thing that makes them sad,) and only when someone noticed that bad things were being said, they took action.

    What is interesting to me, is that had she kept her mouth shut, she could have walked away with the account, with nobody the wiser, and then hit them harder after security had showed her the door. Then they would have had to hire a lawyer and fight in court to get the account back. Not something I'd do (I'd probably have done the same thing she did, especially since future employers are watching,) but it could have hurt them a lot more than it did.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Marge Bouvier, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 3:52pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "...Blissfully unaware of the Internet" - hence the 190 person layoff!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    anonymouse, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 4:19pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I wonder what the secrets are that these people hold that the NDA is for, I would think that with the knowledge that so many people are leaving at the same time it would be easy enough to create an anonymous account and release all the nasty little secrets they want to hide.
    Yes I know that is petty and not the done thing but when your business has been possibly doing illegal things they should be outed. And there are many free anonymous email sites that would works well from an internet cafe.(hint hint)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 4:21pm

    This reminds me of the time I worked for a Company that had a mass layoff. The let go the head mainframe programmer that was the only one that knew how to work one of their major programs. The day after they let him go he got a job working for IBM as a consultant. The employer called him and wanted to hire him back. He told them no thanks he got a job with IBM and if they wanted him back they would have to hire him as a consultant at 3 times his old salary with a 1 year min contract. After about a week of working out the details they brought him back as a consultant at 3 times his original salary for one year and he was more than happy to train his replacement.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 6:16pm

    The internet is a window, you can allow people to clean it and wipe it all day long but you should make sure you control the curtains so you can watch porn in private once in a while.

    If your bedroom curtains had a remote control would you give it to any kid to take care of it?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 6:20pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Information like anything else also has fingerprints, if only you knew about something or a version of some fact and others know that you know only that one, than then can trace it back to you.

    This is how you catch version leaks of document in a network you fingerprint each and everyone with a typo, a keyword or something and see which one gets leaked.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    icon
    G Thompson (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 7:10pm

    Re: Re: Re: Uh oh.

    I'm glad you said "theoretically" since in practice they still probably wouldn't of since then it would of become a criminal matter and the NDA she signed would of been moot since she could of then told in open court every single thing that led up to the mass retrenchments and how HMV might of been keeping secrets from shareholders and corporate watchdogs. Not to mention the public shaming HMV would of endured during the court case.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    laurence, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 3:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Uh oh.

    G Thompson on Feb 4th, 2013

    ..has managed to make the same fundamental grammatical error at every possible opportunity in his posting. Is this kind of ignorance, in a native-speaking adult who has presumably passed through the educational system, sufficient to found a claim in negligence against his school or LEA?

    "probably wouldn't of.."
    "then it would of ..."
    "she signed should of .."
    "since she could of .."
    "how HMV might of ..."
    "shaming HMV would of .."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 4:53am

    Re: Employee Load Balancing Sheet

    It's not the ground that kills you, it's the rapid deceleration trauma.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Feb 5th, 2013 @ 6:00am

    The worst mistake wasn't leaving their social networks on the hands of an layofee. It was actually firing some1 that clearly knows how social networking works.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    DogBreath, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 8:27am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    That's why you surreptitiously gather different versions of said documents while still working there, so when you get fired you release the version that was given to someone who still has a job after you are unceremoniously fired. Works out very well when it comes time to settle old scores and you no longer have anything left to lose (like your job). Said person(s) will likely be those who were an ass to you, or whos ass you kept from being fired for all those years for all the mistakes they made, blamed you for to upper management, and then you had to correct.

    The "Marketing Director" document versions would probably work out very nicely in this case, being as he/she more than likely knew about this a long time ago but didn't want to "spook the herd" into running out too soon to look for other jobs.

    Word of advice for those in Management: If you kick the dog one too many times, don't be surprised when that same dog turns around and bites you in the ass.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    icon
    btr1701 (profile), Feb 5th, 2013 @ 3:00pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Uh oh.

    > ..has managed to make the same fundamental grammatical error at every possible opportunity in his posting.

    LOL! Usually grammar flames are lame, but sometimes they just have to be said.

    So many people blissfully ignorant people these days write 'could of' instead of 'could've' or 'could have', I won't be surprised if they start claiming *they're* the ones who are right because the language has 'morphed' or 'evolved' or some such nonsense.

    It's already happened to the word 'decimate' and our own Mike Masnick is a prime offender there. It actually means 'to reduce by 10%' (leaving 90% intact), but Mike frequently uses it to mean 'completely destroy'. But if you point that out, the very fact that so many people use the word incorrectly is provided as evidence that it's not incorrect to use it that way and the word now has a new meaning.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    icon
    G Thompson (profile), Feb 5th, 2013 @ 6:44pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Uh oh.

    And this coming from someone who doesn't even have the wherewithal to capitalise their own moniker claiming to be 'laurence'

    uhuh.

    Basically grammar for me whilst commenting in TD - which is normally fast, done on small devices and not for the benefit of pedantic Grammar Nazi's - means the difference between knowing your shit and knowing you're shit!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2013 @ 3:30am

    less then adequate severance, most companies would make a severance package that requires you to return all the wages they paid you since you started with them, if the law allowed it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This