How to avoid corporate social media disasters (in 3 steps)

Don’t be caught off-guard, says Rob Begg

Hootsuite’s Rob Begg lays out the three things every employer needs to know about managing social media

It’s a good bet entertainment retailer HMV won’t ever forget January 31, 2013. And not just because it fired 190 staff, which would have made a few headlines anyway. No, what made January 31 a bona fide PR disaster for HMV was the fact that one of the fired employees held the keys to the Twitter account—and you can guess what happened next. The first tweet, sent from the company’s official account to its tens of thousands of followers: “We’re tweeting live from HR where we’re all being fired! Exciting!!” Three tweets later: “Just overhead our Marketing Director (he’s staying, folks) ask, ‘How do I shut down Twitter?’” Needless to say, that’s not a question you ever want to be asking. Rob Begg, vice-president of enterprise strategy at Hootsuite, has a few tips that could save your company from HMV-esque embarrassment.

Tip No. 1: Put someone in charge
Begg says it’s important to not only have a plan but to make social media someone’s responsibility—just as you would with any other important component of your company. It may not be that person’s full-time job, he adds, but someone has to be accountable. “You’d have a key holder for a store; you’d have someone in accounting watching the books; you’d have sales in charge of revenue,” Begg explains. “Social is such an important channel to customers and to the market. Somebody has to have responsibility for it.”

Tip No. 2: Know who has the password
You probably already gleaned this lesson from HMV’s sad tale: “Get a handle on the passwords,” Begg says. “Much like you’d have good passwords for your email and any other mission critical system in your business, do that with social.” His company’s social media dashboard takes security a step further, limiting who can post what and when, and can even require managerial approval before a tweet or Facebook post is sent out to the masses. Whether or not you use Hootsuite, though, organize your passwords “rather than worry about who’s got what written on a sticky note.”

Tip No. 3: Educate your employees
No company is immune to social—its benefits or its consequences. So “give people a little training, even if it’s just a discussion around the table with the team,” Begg says. “Whether you’re a local restaurant or a global chain, you have the same concerns. If you’re a small restaurant with a couple hundred followers in a neighbourhood in Vancouver, you may not have the risk of something going wrong in front of hundreds of thousands of people, but the 500 people you could be exposed to are probably the ones who really matter to you. They’re probably customers.”

For more from The BCBusiness Guide to Social Media, go here >>