Social Media Fail – How to Lose a Job in Two Tweets

Woman gets great internship at NASA.

Woman loses great internship in two tweets.

NASA withdrew their internship offer.

Ooops.

It’s the second tweet posted by Naomi that’s problematic. Because Homer Hickam isn’t kidding around, and he’s properly famous with a wiki page, an amazon page, and an IMDB entry.

There’s an almost-happy ending to this, apparently Naomi has apologised and Homer is trying to help her find a role in the aerospace industry. I’m betting she dials back on the sweary tweeting.

This isn’t the first time a celebratory social media post has cost someone their job, there was the day care worker in 2015, and the Cisco new hire in 2009.

How is this still happening?

I think there’s a trend that our work and private lives are blending, mobile phones have freed us from the office desk meaning that we are always contactable. I am contactable on a company mobile phone but I also have access to personal social media accounts on the same device. Work itself is less hierarchical and more informal. When one of my 20-something-year-old colleagues made a significant error on social media, the reaction of my boss was that he “wasn’t fully socialised yet”. She might be on to something. For anyone entering the workforce now there’s a period of adjustment and that might be getting harder to negotiate as the gap between popular or youth culture and work culture grows.

I’m quite bad at swearing, as in I rarely do it, but I recognise the cathartic effect it has, the great release of tension following a good swear. But it’s not what I want to hear at work, especially not directed at me.

If you talk about the company who just hired you on social media, you are in some way representing them to your followers. Three tips to avoid this;

  1. Celebrate on social media – and try to sound like you want to work there
  2. Imagine the CEO of the company reading your post – before you post
  3. Save the rants, expressing your fears, and the swearing for private channels.

Maybe as a forth tip: use Google to check who someone is before telling them to suck any part of your anatomy.

Everyone looking for jobs/internships works really hard to get through the process, so this must be hugely disappointing. One day our work culture might be closer to the social media culture and all of this might be accepted, until then play nice and remember what you post online is permanent and public.

Social Media Fails (again)

We’re all on social media all the time, and the social media platforms are stretching into new areas of our lives – Facebook now has an “at work” option called Workplace.  So how good are we at using it? Back in 2013 I looked at some Social Media fails (and one brilliant response), now I’m looking again. Are companies making the same sorts of mistakes? Have we got better at using social media?

Some of the same mistakes occurred.

Confuse private and public accounts

Justice Department tweet errorThis tweet came from the US Justice Department, clearly not something a US Justice Department employee should ever be saying, so what happened? The twitter app lets you switch easily between accounts, and many people use the app to access their personal and professional accounts. In this case the staffer’s access to the twitter account was revoked, the tweet deleted and an apology issued.

We’re still making this mistake. I advocated keeping accounts separate, or even using separate devices, but I think that this error has become so common that people understand the error and it doesn’t seem to result in lasting damage to the organisation. If this happens to you apologise, delete tweet and move on.

Misuse of  Sensitive Hashtag/Event

Cinnabon failed Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher died, and the internet mourned. Cinnabon tried to gate-crash the wake with this image, recycled from their May-the-fourth post. The geeks of the internet were not impressed, many pointing out that she was much more than Princess Leia, that she’d hated this hair style, and anyway it’s crass to use someone’s death to promote your product.

As a best practice do not comment on a celebrity death unless they had a direct tie with your company or organisation.  If there’s an emergency or an event where people are in danger only comment on the event in ways that are offering practical support.

Some Social Media Fails were more prominent in 2016.

Geography is Hard

Coca cola geography

Social media posts almost always have images now, and that opens up a whole new world of pain, as Coca Cola found out when they used a map of Russia in their Christmas promotion. They managed to annoy Russia by not including Crimea, and then Ukraine by adding it.

There are a surprising number of tricky borders around the world and a surprising number of sharp-eyed people ready to comment on it. You’re in a no-win situation, you’re bound to annoy someone so avoid maps of contested areas in your imagery if you can.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence got a bit hyped in 2016, if Microsoft’s experiment with “Tay Tweets” is anything to go by humans aren’t ready for it. In just 24 hours twitter taught Tay to be a racist bully.

Within days Microsoft ceased the experiment.

Social Media Amplifies Your Bad Decision

UN hires and then fires Wonder Woman

The UN has a whole organisation devoted to gender equality which states that “UN Women is the global champion for gender equality”. But the UN’s track record isn’t so convincing; just three of the 71 presidents of the UN General Assembly have been women, and all of the Secretaries General have been men.

So when they announced that the new Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls was a fictional character, specifically Wonder Woman, it didn’t go well.  There were protests within the UN, negative feedback in the mainstream media, and across social media.

This is a case of a bad decision being amplified in social media, and it seemed to lead to a change at the UN.

Racism Isn’t a Joke

Racism isn't a joke

Maybe the people running the MTV Australia twitter account on the night of the Golden Globes thought the humour would work since America Ferrera and Eva Longoria were making fun of how Latina actresses are often mistaken for each other. But it’s one thing to make a joke about your own race/nationality and very different for a company to make a joke about someone else’s. Just don’t.

On the same theme; know whom you’re talking about. Total Beauty confused Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah and Whoopi confused

Fake News

Fake news reached a whole new level in 2016, and is set to reach new depths in 2017. There are thousands of US examples out there but I’m going to choose a less contentious example from the UK.

The Grim Reaper was busy in 2016, and with Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds dying within days of each other we were primed for more bad news. So when Queen Elizabeth II stayed home from Church with a cold a fake BBC account reported that she had died and people fell for it.  The report was quickly debunked, leaving twitter embarrassed but relieved.

Which leads to a prediction for 2017; this will be the year we get smart about our news sources. Once I’m earning again I’ll be supporting one or two sources of good journalism.

So what’s changed?

I didn’t find examples of people jumping on trending hashtags any more, or of people sharing information that shouldn’t be made public, so we’ve got smarter. The errors now seem to be more in the area of content creation, social media managers need to understand how their promotional content might land in a global market.

We’ve got better, but the job has got tougher.

Repeated Social Media Fails

 

In a month where a “beach body ready” campaign hit the news in the UK with people taking to twitter to protest,  an ANZAC campaign went wrong in Australia and Baltimore erupted over every media outlet, not just the social ones, I spotted two social media fails that were not just stupid, they were repeats of earlier fails.

People make mistakes, I get it, I have a long list of my own mistakes that I’m not publishing. This is a reminder to pay attention to your social media posts, and to think before you post.

1 Bad Reaction

A burger bar owner lost his cool with a customer on Facebook. His rant is laden with insults, bizarre comparisons and swear words.

What did the customer do to deserve this?

She sent a private message saying that her son had had an upset stomach with vomiting following a meal at the burger bar. She finished her message with “Just wanted you to be aware. We thought the burgers were fantastic and know it’s probably a one-off”.

The reaction is about 20:1 in favour of the customer, with many commenters declaring they’ll never eat there.

We’ve seen this before, back in 2013 Amy’s Baking Company was visited by Gordon Ramsay in his show Kitchen Nightmares. The restaurant in question responded in flurry of furious facebook posts and it all went downhill from there. As Forbes later pointed out in their lessons on social media; Don’t Insult People. I’d go further; don’t tweet when you’re mad.

2 Fired Before you Start

A single mum landed a job at a daycare centre but before she could start the centre changed their decision and she’s out of a job. Why?

She complained online about hating working at daycare centres and she doesn’t like being around kids all the time. It didn’t take long for those comments to reach the day care centre, and they rescinded their offer.

This has happened before, famously a young woman tweeted;

She learnt the hard way that companies monitor social media, that what you say on a social media channel is public – and permanent, and what you say could be damaging.

These incidents were all avoidable if the posters had thought through the impact of their words. A former colleague who was expert in digital security used to say that everything you put online is “public and permanent”. That means that the list of people who can see your post isn’t just the friends you tag; it’s your boss, future boss, future girl/boyfriend, brother, colleague, journalist, neighbour and your mum.

Think before you post.

Social Media Disaster

I can’t believe this really happened.

Screen Shot 2012-12-16 at 1.29.15 PM
Kmart tweets about the massacre of school children in Newton, and adds a promotional hashtag.

But it did, Business Insider carried the story along with people’s reaction. Kmart’s explanation is that they were ending the #Fab15Toys campaign in light of the Newton events, I don’t think anyone reading the tweet would have understood that.

At the time of 9/11 my company was about to run a TV ad campaign in the US. Not only did we not run the campaign (on the basis the timing would have been insensitive), we donated the TV time to Red Cross. It’s a story that’s never made the news – because creating PR about doing the right thing is ugly. I really struggle to understand how a company like Kmart with all the resources in the world can make such an insensitive communication error.

Not only is it incredibly insensitive there are precedents, two that come to mind are;

  • Kenneth Cole suffered backlash in 2011 when he tweeted an insensitive comment connecting the uprisings in Cairo to the new spring collection. He apologised.
  • Gap tweeted about Hurricane Sandy and shopping – in the same message. And later apologised

Do these companies think that any publicity is good publicity  – or are they really that stupid?

Every company using social media should have a content plan and set of standards around it. Every company should have a crisis communication plan that includes social media channels. Check yours today – make sure it includes something like;

In a time of crisis or natural disaster not directly connected do [insert company name here] you may tweet messages of support.

– Do not combine the hashtag of that event with any company promotional hashtag or link.

– Before you hit send think “how would a victim feel reading this tweet?”

Discuss it with your social media team, show them the impact, add it to your social media training. Keep doing this until they get the message – it’s not OK to promote your product on the back of a trending crisis hashtag.

On the Social Media Fail

The lure of successful viral marketing campaigns seems to cloud the judgement of marketers from time to time. This week’s example comes from Facebook and includes a love story of Mark and Audrey.

An insurance company created a story of Mark, a 23-year-old, and Audrey, a 47-year-old and their fight to be together against society’s expectations. They gathered a lot of support leading up to their “wedding day” last Friday, the number of followers today stands at more than 3,000.

Then came the big reveal, a video showing the preparations of a wedding which culminated in a car accident. After which the campaign tagline comes up “Unexpected Things Happen in Life; Be insured to have your loved ones assured”, which is followed by a disclaimer stating that it was a campaign.

The reaction on facebook has been swift and severe, and the company seems to have been overwhelmed by the negative responses, one of their last comments was;

Some posters see this as a great use of social media for a campaign, but most see it as dishonest, trust-destroying and a betrayal.

Walmart faced a similar backlash in 2006 when they sponsored bloggers to travel the country in an RV. In that case Walmart came clean and reveled their sponsorship of the bloggers, they’ve gone on to blog successfully and now list official blogs on their corporate site.

In this case the company hasn’t yet taken ownership of the campaign; making it a whole new level of social media fail.