No, you can’t shut down Twitter: Lessons from HMV

“How do I shut down Twitter?” That was the question reportedly asked by the marketing director at entertainment retailer, HMV, last week in an effort to stop newly-retrenched staff from tweeting their reaction to their own retrenchments.

Senior marketers and managers must have shivered, thinking how easily they could find themselves in the same situation: frantically finding passwords, trying to figure out how this newfangled thing called Twitter works, and developing a social media crisis plan on the spot.

The incident was damaging for HMV’s brand. For leaders, there are several lessons to learn from the incident.

Get your head out of the sand
It’s time realise social media is here to stay. It is not a fad, or just for the “young ones” but rather a legitimate marketing and customer engagement tool.

Many senior managers realise this. Research shows that more companies now have dedicated budgets for social media strategy and management.

But I suspect those who have agreed to these budgets were happy not knowing much more about social media until the day comes when they are screaming, “How do I shut off Twitter?”

Social media responsibility
CEOs, executives and marketing managers need to be fluent in social media to keep their companies relevant and connected.

With dedicated budgets comes responsibility to carefully manage brands online. If you want to play in the social media sandpit, you have to play by the rules.

Understand them, recognise why it matters and identify the level engagement necessary for your company.

While micromanaging social media is not a good idea, a good understanding of how it works and its implications for the business are essential.

Get social
Social media is one of those things in life that you have to experience to truly understand. While you don’t necessary have to have the time to be on every platform, find one that suits you, and learn it.

I’ve blogged since 2006, and I think every leader, executive and senior manager should consider writing their own blog, or at least contributing to their company’s. It’s an effective way to communicate directly with your customers, bypass the media, share insights into your business, be known as an industry expert and create relationships with your clientele.

The 2012 CEO, a social media and leadership survey conducted by branding consultancy, Brandfog, found 82% of people are more likely to trust a company whose CEO engages with social media. Who doesn’t want that?

Plan for a crisis
The HMV incident sheds light on how quickly a few tweets can damage a brand. Ironically, brands could spend millions of dollars on social media to build brand reputation, just to see it to go up in smoke within seconds if there isn’t a crisis plan.

It took 30 minutes to “shut down” the HMV Twitter account. For half an hour the disgruntled employees were tweeting how they felt about the situation. Those tweets were later deleted, but the damage was done.

Crises have not changed, but with social media, the rules of responding have, and if a crisis is not managed properly, millions have the potential to see it unfold and grow. 


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