The tweet was innocent enough, nothing like the recent fiasco of Congressman Anthony Weiner. All Vanessa Williams typed into her 140 characters is "We start summer hours today. That means most of the staff leave at noon, many to hit the links. Do you observe summer hours? What do you do?"
However, it was this tweet that resulted in Ms. Williams loosing her job. What gets to people the most about the situation is how severely it was handled. Instead of reprimanding Ms. Williams, they fired her, and people are yelling foul!
But was it?
There is a reason why the term “reputation management” is around. The damage that can be done to a brand online is the worst kind. It often turns viral, and the result is instantaneous. But there are ways to minimize this damage or eliminate it entirely, making a flipside to the argument. As in, if the company knew more about social media, then they wouldn’t have been so hard on Ms. Williams.
So, what should have they done?
I, personally, wouldn’t have fired her. According to the news report, Ms. Williams was newly employed. And, I don’t know how you feel about new hires, but I never expect them to know right away how to manage their job.
To correct this particular situation, all I would require her to do is a digital clean up. She needed to inform the online community other details, such as explaining that the only time employees leave early is after they complete forty hours. This solves the problem without costing Ms. Williams her job, and it also saves me, as the employer, the hassle of finding someone new.
But if anything is to be learned here, a situation like this demonstrates the need of social media training. Perhaps Ms. Williams wouldn’t have written as she did if she had been taught otherwise. Simple steps, such as developing a code of rules for one’s employees, can often be the preventive measure.
In any case, it is unfortunate that the lack of such costs people like Ms. Williams their jobs. Hopefully, in the future, we will see less of stories like hers as people get smarter about what to say and what not to say on social media channels.
(Of course, you can always call us to set up a training session to teach this etiquette to your employees – 🙂 )