ABSTRACT: By illustrating how easy it was for me (or anyone else) to ‘highjack’ a small business’ social media accounts, this article outlines why all businesses MUST have a minimum social media presence, and more importantly, a social media policy in place for employees.
As a provider of social media management services to businesses, I’m amazed at how many decision makers I encounter who still believe they don’t need a social media presence or policy.
I’m going to use a recent example of a customer/provider incident that I’m involved in to illustrate the absolute necessity for any business to have at least a minimum social media presence, as well as a strict social media policy for their employees.
Claim Your Social Media Identity, Or Someone Else Will
Lesson #1: Be careful who you call a shmuck.
Brief Background: For context… While camping last Labour Day weekend with friends, my 12′ aluminum boat (while moored on shore) was swamped 3 times by the huge wake of the local water taxi jet boat that blasted through the channel where we camped. On our final day just as we were leaving our site, I got swamped again with my boat loaded to go. After bailing out I decided to visit the marina that owned the water taxis to ask them to have their boats slow down in the channel in consideration of other boaters & campers. When I calmly approached the manager with the issue, his response was “get the f*** out of my store”, “we don’t need shmucks like you around here” and a whole lot more as he basically forced me back to my boat down the dock, yelling and being totally unreasonable the entire time.
I had tried to be reasonable. But being a social media professional and feeling the strong need to share this experience, I couldn’t wait to get home to my computer.
Lesson #2: Claim your social media identities, or someone else will.
UPDATE: I have changed the name of the business for illustration purposes.
When I got home I went to Facebook to post my concerns on the XYZ Marine Co. Facebook page. But there wasn’t one. So I made one, for FREE. Here it is: (currently disabled). This is what any Facebook user will find if they search for XYZ Marine Co. on Facebook.
So then I decided to post on the XYZ Marine Co. Twitter account. There wasn’t one. So I made one, for FREE. Here it is: (currently disabled). This is what any twitter user will find if they search for XYZ Marine Co..
I then decided to check out XYZ Marine Co.’s website, just to see what they were all about. After searching all I found was www.XYZMarineCo.ca… What? No XYZMarineCo.com???
Well there is now, and I own it, and only cost me around $10. Here it is (a simple godaddy parked page): (currently disabled). and being a SEO (search engine optimization) expert as well, I realized I’d hit search engine gold. Soon whenever someone searches Google for “XYZ Marine Co.”, I’ll own that, too.
I then also started posting reviews at Yelp, Yellow Pages, and slew of other sites, just to get the message out.
It only took me a few hours to implement the above accounts, and really, anyone could do it!
It Can Get Worse
What can be even worse than a negative social media campaign, occurs if you’ve committed some sort of legal infraction – it gives your disgruntled customer some extra ammo to add to their campaign.
For example, I only spent another hour or two contacting the Police, Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of Natural Resources, and a few other government agencies I thought might like to know about the water safety infractions that appear to occur daily by XYZ Marine Co..
It seems it’s their common practice (as stated by the manager who was yelling at me) to speed through this particular channel – “it’s a f***ing channel, so we can do whatever we want” he yelled. Unfortunately, Ontario law says boats cannot travel in an unbuoyed channel more than 10km/h within 100ft of shore. There’s no buoys in this channel, and his boats were traveling well within 100ft of shore, at well over 10km/h.
Be aware that someone with enough knowledge and motivation will take the time to do the research, and they will hurt you on social media and other Web2.0 review type websites like Yelp or Yellow Pages. Sure there’ll be lots of complainers out there, but be careful about how you react to them, or who you call schmuck – they may just be a social media expert.
Have your bases covered and claim your social media properties now before someone else takes them from you, and shares things with the public you’d rather not have them know.
Lesson #3: When you’ve made a mistake, own up, and fix the problem.
So it was about 5 months ago that I put that little effort in to let people know about XYZ Marine Co..
Three weeks ago I was contacted by the “new management”, to clear this problem up. It seems he had learned of the incident, and wanted to know how we could make things right. I wanted things to be righted as well, and have things be a win-win for both of us. Again, I wanted to be reasonable and make things right.
Because this is my business, I made the “new management” an offer where; there is a public and social media apology, I transfer all these social and web properties to them, all employees take a water safety course, and I help them with a new website and social media marketing strategy. Basically, I offered to help put a positive PR spin on this bad stain they’ve created.
So far I have yet to hear from them if they’re willing to accept, and my patience has been worn to it’s limit today by a post from another XYZ Marine Co. employee on the FB page I created.
Which strengthens my next point even more…
Your Employees Can Do Serious Damage Behind Your Back
Lesson #4: Have a strict social media policy in place for employees.
Notwithstanding the manager’s disgusting and disrespectful reaction to my complaints that caused the initial social media campaign I started, yesterday an employee of XYZ Marine Co. posted some ridiculous and disrespectful comments about the incident on the FB page I created.
This illustrates how important it is to keep a tight reign on your employees when speaking or posting about your business on any social media website. THEY ARE ESSENTIALLY REPRESENTING YOUR BUSINESS, at least that’s how the public sees it.
I’m sure other business owners reading this are reeling in their seats in fear of one of their employees doing something as idiotic as this to hurt their business or brand. Keep it from happening by educating your employees about the hazards of social media. Emotions tend to get the better of anyone, and can cause things to be said when they shouldn’t, but awareness is the key. By putting a social media policy in place and spending time educating your employees about it you can protect yourself from any damage that a rogue emotional employee might inflict on your brand or business image.
Here are some great resources for implementing a social media plan and policy for your business and employees: (Notice how old these articles are? Sad that we still need to share and educate business owners about this.)
SocialMediaToday – Social Media Employee Policy Examples from Over 100 Organizations
SocialMediaGovernance – Database of social media policies
Inc.com – How to Write a Social Media Policy
Mashable – 10 Must-Haves for Your Social Media Policy
So, still think you don’t need a social media presence or policy?
View our list of social media services here.