I was fired for a tweet

Take it from someone who was relieved from her duties of handling a social media account: You need procedures in place to prevent personnel and PR issues. She offers a three-prong approach.

Social media isn’t all fun and games. Mistakes committed online never go away, and you can’t do a thing about it. I learned this the hard way, when I was fired from handling my university’s student government social media.

Here’s what happened—and the lessons you can learn from me.

One day, the university police sent an email alert describing an incident that had happened near campus. Students were talking about it, and I wanted to be a part of that conversation as the voice of student government online.

The organization had given me freedom to post tweets without first asking for approval. So, I sent a tweet commenting on the incident. An hour or so later my boss called and asked me to take it down. The next day, I was called in and let go.

After dealing with the shock, I started to look into the legality of the matter.

In hindsight, I should have realized that the university wouldn’t want the student government to talk about such matters on a public Twitter account. I felt I was just speaking to students and didn’t see the bigger picture and, as a result, failed to realize the gravity of the error.

Social media managers have a great deal of power and responsibilities. Their mistakes are often public and can lead to their termination or spark a social media firestorm for the company.

How can an organization protect itself from social media disaster?

Establish rules

When someone starts working on your social media pages, they should be handed a packet of information. Include in this packet the company rules and the rules from all the platforms where your organization has a presence.

For example, Facebook has pages of rules that, if violated, could get your page shut down. Make sure your employees know them.

In your internal rules, include examples of what not to post and what will happen if these rules are broken, such as posts about current events/political bias, origin of videos/photos, and types of photos/videos that are unacceptable.

Here are some more things to consider:

• Decide who has permission to post on what pages and when.
• Determine when and how often should they be posting.
• Ask whether an approval process is necessary for social media posts.
• Establish whether scheduling posts is OK.
• Determine who responds to a complaint and how—and how fast—they respond.
• Decide on a voice for your brand.

Write a contract

Create a contract for the social media manager and other relevant employees that covers privacy and confidentiality, including specifics on what employees can post to their personal and corporate social media accounts.

Personal social media accounts can reflect upon the company adversely, so clarity is a must. This contract should be signed upon hiring and kept in the employee’s personal folder. It can be referred to in the event of an error.

Develop a procedure for dealing with screw-ups internally

If an employee does violate his or her contract, or does something that warrants action, there must be a procedure that includes dealing with the employee and, if necessary, the news media.

Should the employee be notified immediately? Is there a warning system? These procedures need to be written into the company policy but must also be included in this packet so employees know their rights.

Nicole Rose Dion is social media coordinator/graphic designer at The Abbi Agency. Find them on Twitter @theabbiagency.

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