HMV Twitter fail offers lessons in corporate comms

HMV’s Twitter crisis that saw employees take to the official account to post unauthorised details of job cuts offers an interesting lesson in corporate communications for businesses with consumer facing brands.


It’s a very new problem businesses face but pre-empting this and making sure that the people in charge had control of all social channels before bringing HMV’s marketing and digital teams in to face their “mass execution” (their words, not mine.) would have avoided this embarrassing situation.

Often social media teams are the only people that have the necessary logins and passwords for things like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and so on. The top echelons of businesses probably underestimate the power this puts in their hands.

If an employee is disgruntled enough, there’s almost no end to the damage that can be done to your online reputation in a very short time. If the only people with access to the communications channels are the ones being let go, it could put the management in hot water if they too don’t know how to either lock it down, or use it to good effect.

The lesson? Keep your social media team on side and make sure you have tight control of all your communications channels right from the very top of the organisation.

It doesn’t reflect particularly well that one tweet from the @HMVtweets account names and shames the marketing director asking “how do I shut twitter down?” as it spread across the social network.

A touch unprofessional, but understandable. HMVs staff are dedicated to the brand and frustrated at the demise of the brand they love. Most people can empathise and many probably wish they had the courage to do something similar and stick two fingers up at the establishment when faced with the same.

The brand has now deleted all the tweets. Whether in the age of digital transparency it was the right thing to do or not is something that will continue to be debated.

As a corporate organisation, HMV didn’t really have much choice, although with the number of screen grabs of the tweets flying around online it may as well not have bothered. They will be immortalised online and regurgitated ad infinitum as an example of social media and corporate communications gone wrong.

A more transparent option would have been to keep them all front and centre but for the corporate PR team to regain control of the feed and do damage control by providing information rather than deleting the comments and opting for radio silence.

It’s the silence that speaks volumes.

Readers' comments (2)

  • These are unprofessional employees, scorching the earth of those they leave behind. You can't really take precautions against such people. They could steal customer data, deface their website, throw paint up the front of HMV - it's by no means unique to social media.

    "Whether in the age of digital transparency it was the right thing to do or not is something that will continue to be debated."

    Where's the debate? Why on earthy would any company keep Tweets about being "executed" on their official Twitter feed when they're trying to rescue the business? Just a no brainer that they would be deleted. Nothing can be said - it is what it is.

    Perhaps they should just Tweet "Thanks to the unprofessional people who are trying to ruin the lives of the employees still here." Could be fitting.

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    It’s difficult to control a situation like this unfolding in real-time but a marketing executive must put controls in place or at least have the forethought to consider how sensitive content can be leaked and who has the ability to do it and by what channel.

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