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Neil Andrews Partner Coles Miller

Social Media catches out High Street retailer - lessons for all business owners6th Feb 2013

by on 6th Feb 2013


Neil AndrewsJust who’s in control of a business’s brand, image and reputation on social networks? That’s the question businesses ­ big and small ­ should be asking themselves after a fiasco on Twitter last week involving staff at HMV, the troubled retailer.

Early in the afternoon of 31 January, Twitterland was gripped by the unfolding drama of HMV’s corporate twitter account being “hijacked” by a disgruntled HMV social media employee tweeting live from inside the company.

Tweets including: “There are over 60 of us being fired at once!”, “Just heard our Marketing Director (he’s staying folks) asking “How do I shut down Twitter?”” were posted to the company’s official Twitter account. Though calm was finally restored, tweets deleted and the HMV twitter page returned to talk of BlueCross sales and Jurassic Park 4, the damage was done as the tweets had already gone viral. It was a masterclass in how not to do social media.

Neil Andrews, Employment Solicitor and Partner at leading Dorset firm Coles Miller, said:

“This incident should give employers using social media pause for thought about their own social media set up. It sounds blindingly obvious, but business owners or senior management should know who’s responsible for controlling their brand in the social media space. They should probably also keep the company’s twitter or facebook password to themselves and require staff who they have tasked with managing or contributing to the company’s social media accounts to access these accounts via separate apps and platforms like Tweetdeck, leaving business owners/senior management being able to shut Twitter down in an emergency.”

To help local business people better understand not only the opportunities but the commercial, legal and reputational risks of social media, Coles Miller are hosting a seminar at the Hallmark Hotel on 21st February, entitled: “Taking control of social media, Before it takes control of you.” The seminar will also feature online experts from Intergage and recruitment agency Team Jobs.

Neil concluded:

“In any event, having clear guidance on the boundaries of social media use in employment contracts or Staff Handbook, training staff on what is expected of them in respect of social media etiquette/use and the consequences of non-compliance, and keeping social media account passwords within senior management are also very important tools to manage social media/reputational risks.”

This document is not intended to constitute and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice on any specific matter. No liability for the accuracy of the content of this document, or the consequences of relying on it, is assumed by the author. If you seek further information, please contact Managing Partner Neil Andrews at Coles Miller Solicitors LLP.