There is one cardinal rule of social media: that it is media. Anyone who comments on these sites and uses these tools is acting no differently than if they were facing a camera, have a mike in their face or are glancing at someone scribbling in a notebook. Employees or others who are acting on behalf of organizations who go on social media must have the same skills and discipline as those who appear on-camera, on the air and on the record.
I have been warning of the risks of having individuals who lack this training, discipline and experience, namely contact center agents, to go on social media. Why? Because I know firsthand as a reporter, as a spokesperson and as a political and community activist and as a onetime public office candidate how careful you must be when making media comments. This doesn't mean the language has to be bland and/or content-devoid. It means that the messaging--especially in a public interplay that can get hot-and-heavy--must be accurate, kept consistent and be delivered calmly.
The impacts of poor social media commentary was brought home in March by a pair of 'misTweets', one by an employee of an ad agency the other by a well-known comedian--individuals who know the power of language--that embarrassed their organizations and which led to their dismissal.
The New York Times, in an excellent article by Stuart Elliott
“When the Marketing Reach of Social Media Backfires” published March 15 reported that these fates befell an employee of the ad agency handling the Chrysler consumer brand’s Twitter account after posting a comment that read: “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to drive.” “Between “to” and “drive” was a vulgarity.” They also struck Gilbert Gottfried, the voice behind the AFLAC duck when he “started to post at least 10 jokes to his personal Twitter feed about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan — a market that accounts for 75 percent of Aflac’s revenue,” said the Times.
“The incidents, involving remarks on Twitter that were judged to be tasteless, inappropriate and insensitive, point out some inherent risks of social media,” said the Times.
“One challenge is the “amplified effect” of social media, said Ian Schafer, chief executive at Deep Focus, a digital agency in New York, citing how, on Twitter, “you put something out and it can be retweeted thousands of times.”
“It’s an age when anybody can communicate to an audience,” he added. “It didn’t used to be that way.”
“The relative newness of that phenomenon, said George E. Belch, a marketing professor at San Diego State University, means “there are people in your company who forget when they post on a blog, on Twitter, on a Facebook page, that it’s out there — and it’s out there at warp speed.”
"Another risk with social media is how many users vie to be first with what they consider clever comments on news stories and other subjects their friends and families care about."
“I’m concerned,” said Daniel Khabie, chief executive at Digitaria in San Diego, an agency that is part of the JWT division of WPP. “I think you should think before you speak, and you should think before you tweet.”
“We, as people, have a social responsibility,” he added. “What you say in social media shouldn’t be just a chain of thoughts.”
“Brands need to “establish a social media policy,” Mr. Khabie said, because without such precautions, “we’re giving people loaded guns to do incredible harm.”
The Times article then cited Craig Macdonald, chief marketing officer at Covario who "said he would recommend that marketers pursue a strategy of “controlled chaos” in social media."
“Offer employees some sort of certification course and tell them, ‘We’ll tolerate some negativity and dumb stuff, and we’ll course-correct as we go along,’ ”Mr. Macdonald said. "Then monitor what they say, course correct — and do better next time.”