Monday, April 29, 2013

With social media, all of your employees are brand ambassadors; train them accordingly


A Hockessin, Delaware, restaurant has gotten itself into a bit of hot water after it was discovered that its employees posted offensive photographs to the restaurant’s Facebook and Instagram pages. The photos were of receipts of bad-tipping customers, and included offensive and racist comments, including “'#deuchbag”, “#cheapass”, “#hillbillies”, “#cheap #jerk #indian”, and “#cheap #jew”.

While the accounts have been disabled, Daily Mail posted some of the screen-caps.

Whether you like it or not, social media has turned each of your employees into a brand ambassador. Can you afford to have your brand sullied by the offensive or racists rants of one of your employees? More importantly, how do you undo the damage caused? While an offending employee should be fired for the transgression, the firing won’t remove the stain left on your business. In this case, the owner posted a public apology to his customers, but that apology will not undo all of the viral damage done by a rogue employee. Additionally, the power to delete the post cannot stop others from publicizing the screencap of death. For example, this restaurant deleted the posts, but they live on in the Daily Mail story and in this post.

What is the answer?

  1. Training, training, training. Employees need to understand that they will be held accountable with their jobs if they write something online that damages the reputation of your brand. Do not entrust this issue solely to your employees’ common sense. They will disappoint you.

  2. Monitor your brand online. You do not want to find out about something like this for the first time with a reporter asking you for a comments. There are myriad tools available online to monitor your brand’s social presence. They are well worth the investment, especially when compared to the potential harm one disgruntled or renegade employee can cause. Google alerts are free, and are a great starting point. They will not, however, catch much of the social chatter. Two popular paid solutions (which I am not endorsing, but merely informing) are Radian6 and Wildfire.

  3. Secure your IT and social media accounts. According to the owner of this restaurant, the accounts were hacked because he “left [his] iPad and stuff all around.” You need to secure your technology to ensure that employees cannot appropriate social media channel to which they should not have access.

If you want to see an example of one large scale organization trains its employees on the appropriate and responsible use of social media, specifically to address the risk of viral damage from negative or irresponsible posts, take a look at the training video Zurich Insurance has made available on YouTube:

YouTube also has available similar examples from Citrix, Sodexo, and KPMG. As with any policy or training your are considering implementing, check first with your own legal counsel.

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