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.