Some may criticize companies who are not open to social media websites like Facebook because they can’t censor comments. But before you open up to customer and employee comments you have to be willing take the risks and suffer the consequences. Look at football players for example. Just in the last couple of months there have been numerous examples of players hurting their team, university or their own personal brands through rash Twitter comments.
In August the Philadelphia Eagles had Tweetgate, where they had to apologize for Todd Herremans’ anti-homosexual tweet. In September an Oklahoma player was suspended following inappropriate Twitter comments he made following a shooting incident at the University of Texas. Last month Raven’s Ray Rice tweeted about getting out of a ticket because he bribed the officer with an autograph for his son. And just yesterday a Utah player sparked a controversy with a comment he made about Boise State before the upcoming Maaco Bowl in Las Vegas. Of course, most NFL and college teams probably don’t have a Twitter communication plan. These are simply players acting and reacting on their own.
An example of a company with a Twitter plan that encourages employees to Tweet is Zappos.com. In fact, there are just under 500 Zappos employees tweeting for the company. Sound like a management nightmare? They don’t seem to be tweeting off the cuff as much as football players. For example, two years ago the company had massive layoffs. Hundreds of employees reacted strongly on the company’s Twitter feed, but instead of a PR nightmare, it was something the company embraced. Instead of censoring laid off employees, Zappos remained as transparent as usual. In the end, employees appreciated it, management benefited and customers saw Zappos.com as a company from which they want to buy.
What’s the secret? Zappos invests heavily in employee training. They don’t just set them up with Twitter accounts and let them go. Zappos management equips employees with plenty of tools and guidelines to effectively tweet and represent the company online. The company also puts a lot of energy into hiring smart people.
Do you trust your company’s online communications plan to do the same?