Tag Archives: social media policy

Should you respond to nasties online? Walmart’s new approach

One thing that has become all too transparent with social media and the Internet is that there are an awful lot of ugly, nasty people out there. And when they can hide behind anonymity they can get real ugly. That reality has driven a whole new class of reputation crisis. But left many with the question of what do you do when the uglies, nasties and digital mob start creaming you online?

My sense is that the standard answer (certainly mine has been) is that it doesn’t make sense to respond to any and every gratuitous attack. Monitor, monitor, monitor and if it looks like some accusation is getting legs then respond. However, I continually am surprised by the remnants of the old Mark Twain comment (I think it was Twain) who said never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel. While that refers to news, because of the impossibility of determining a meaningful distinction between new media and old media, it also applies in some thinking to online attacks as well. Particularly if the attack is coming from someone with a large following.

The old saw about buying ink by the barrel must be balanced against another old say: a lie repeated often enough becomes the truth. Walmart, it seems, is signing up to that idea with a new policy of not allowing gratuitous attacks online to go unchallenged. This digiday article on Walmart’s social media reputation SWAT team gives a very interesting insight into how Walmart deals with the 60,000 comments online about the company.

While your organization may not be Walmart in representing such a juicy target, if you have concerns about what may emerge online a study of Walmart’s approach is very worthwhile. This article gives a great behind the scenes look. The key difference in Walmart’s policy is this:

The internal mantra at Walmart: No free shots. This is a shift. Up until about a year and a half ago, Walmart took a passive approach to its critics on social media. It used social as a media relations tool to push out messages when it was convenient to them.

Social media is primarily about engagement. I see many approach it with old media thinking–that it is one way. Social media is two way. Sort of like talking to people. You won’t get much respect if in your conversation with others you just talk, talk, talk and never recognize that your conversation partner might have something to say.

Follow up to Chrysler–great blogging

While I was critical of Chrysler’s response to the inadvertent F-bomb tweet, I have to hand it to them for their response to this as seen on their corporate blog. I noted in my first post that my headline suggested they fired the errant tweeter but I quickly changed this assuming (correctly) that since this was an agency employee Chrysler could not fire and likely would not ask the agency to do so.

Here is their blog post by Ed Garsten, which goes to some length to explain their reaction was appropriate given the sensitivities raised by their high profile ad campaign.

A couple of comments–while this is a good response, it shows how important the initial reaction was. Their biggest problem in my mind was saying their account was compromised. Those initial responses and first moments or hours after something like this are so important, but how did you get the information, the perspective, the strategy right when things are still unfolding. We are simply going have to learn how to buy some time without making things worse, I think.

Second comment. Doesn’t this all strike you as a bit of a tempest in a teapot? So someone posted a comment to a wrong account. It happens. I think the real reason this is getting so much attention (headline stories in two of the top public relations blogs/newsletters) is because it highlights the vulnerabilities of reputations in this new era of direct engagement. Black Swans popping up out of the blue. Things going sideways before you can slide the “slide to unlock” button on your smart phone. The priority on speed in response. The challenges of big organizations being nimble enough to nip these things in the bud. Social media policy and how to enforce it. These are the real issues and they are near top of mind for many concerned about reputations. So, while this may be a small thing made big, it is an excellent example of the new challenges and vulnerabilities.

We learned much from Taco Bell’s “thank you for suing us response.” Now, we are learning from Chrysler–both dangers and effective strategies.

Errant Chrysler tweeter fired–overreaction?

I read recently where well over half of companies are now using social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. Clearly social media marketing has gone mainstream. But, this doesn’t come without some challenges. Knowing this, companies and organizations are almost all struggling with social media policies–how should their social media outlets be managed, and what to do when they are mismanaged. And, of course, what do you allow or not allow your employees to do with their own social media sites?

Chrysler ran into a problem with their Twitter account @ChryslerAutos, the official Chrysler Twitter voice. According to this article in PRdaily, a tweet saying that motor city drivers did not know “how to f***king drive.” Chrysler promptly deleted the tweet and issued an apology saying their account was “compromised.”

Hmmm, that kind of response only raises more questions. How compromised? By whom? For what purpose? What is being done to prevent such compromising? And of course, when questions are raised without adequate answers being provided, someone is going to dig into it. According to the above post, it was the bloggers at the autophile site Jalopnik who discovered how the site was compromised. Turns out it was one of the staff of Chrysler’s social media agency who apparently inadvertently tweeted using Chrysler’s official Twitter account instead of his own. Jalopnik reported on this and Chrysler responded by issuing a more detailed explanation on its blog:

“This morning an inappropriate comment was issued from the Chrysler brand Twitter handle, @ChryslerAutos, via our social media agency of record, New Media Strategies (NMS). After further investigation, it was discovered that the statement was issued by an NMS employee, who has since been terminated.”

OK, not a big deal overall but raises some interesting questions overall.

1) Every company using social media should send the PRdaily story around (or this blog if you prefer) to their social media staff including their agency representatives. The risks of this kind of accident happening are considerable, it is easy to understand how it could happen, and this kind of event should raise the awareness of everyone as to how it could happen and the damage it can cause.

2) Chrysler would have been better off being a little more forthcoming in their original apology about it. Being fast is important so it is likely they didn’t have the answer as to how it happened when it was first noticed and they deleted it and tweeted about it. Rather than saying their account was “compromised” which suggests sinister motives and loss of security, they should have said (assuming they didn’t have the facts yet), “we don’t know exactly what happened, but we’re sorry it did and when we find out, we’ll let you know.” Major principle here: if you try to be coy, others will dig. If you would prefer others not dig, don’t be coy, be forthcoming, complete and honest.

3) Chrysler named the agency. I have mixed feelings about this. Sounds to me like they are a little ticked at their agency–understandably. But punishing them this way seems a little harsh. Yet, to not name them might be considered a violation of the above principle of full and open disclosure. Overall I think I would have opted to say “our social media agency” rather than naming them even if it meant others would dig it out. On the other hand, if I was New Media Strategies, I’d be loud about apologizing to Chrysler and saying what they are doing to prevent such things from happening again.

4) Firing the perpetrator. I have a hard time with this one. I do think it is important when trying to enforce social media policies and guidelines to be firm and fast in responding to violations. But an accidental post by a penitent low-level staff person (assuming that is the case) is something that should be apologized for, laughed about it, used as a reminder for everyone else, and perhaps good naturedly dismissed (not the person, the issue). By promptly firing this person there is a strong suggestion that more is going on here than is being mentioned. I don’t know about you, but it kind of makes me want to dig into it to see what is really going on. I don’t have the time, but I’ll bet some bloggers do. The point again is that the harshness of the response suggests a bigger story, and a bigger story unrevealed calls for a Watergate-inspired investigative response.

(PS–I changed the original headline to this post because it is not clear who caused the firing, Chrysler or NMS.)

Three more examples of social media policies–Kodak, Intel, IBM

Social media policies are a big issue today. They are fraught with danger. One, because the culture of the internet demands transparency and openness to incredible degrees, but the culture also seems to celebrate anger, rudeness, crudeness, vulgarity and general disrespect. I blogged earlier here about Walmart’s Twitter policy. From Mashable, here are three examples of other major organizations with social media policies around transparency, moderation of comments, and the value of social media.