Right on the heels of the epic Social Media debacle I wrote about last week, here’s a story about a terminated employee that left the company (amicably) and took his Twitter account with him. This wouldn’t be news except for one thing: His job was to create and manage the company’s Social Media, including their Twitter account. He received no instructions from the bosses on the creation of the account so he just used his personal account and updated the name. At the time of his departure, he had grown the company’s network to 17,000+ followers. The company is now suing the ex-employee for $340,000, saying that network of connected consumers belongs to them and that each follower is worth $2.50.
As we move into 2012, it’s becoming more and more important to know how Social Media works and to have a plan in place to avoid the common mistakes that dealers make in setting up their Social Media profiles. Your Social Media presence is imperative to promoting your business where your customer lives. Your Social Media accounts should be taken as seriously as your bank accounts. They represent future revenue. They are your reputation.
Lately, I’ve had many dealers call me to address their Social presence where they have 2, 3, 4 or more Facebook pages and multiple Twitter accounts. Some Facebook pages are Personal Profiles, others are Business Pages. Because you want your presence to be consistent and focused, you only want one account on each platform to grow your community. Cleaning this up takes a lot of time, effort and money.
Having been the car biz my entire life, I can see how these missteps are happening. Someone in management decides that the store needs a Facebook presence. They call someone (an employee) to “handle it”. The employee does what they’re told and they create the Facebook account. Then, that person quits or is terminated. Ah oh, suddenly no one knows how to access the store’s Facebook page because that person did it under their own personal email. So, because Facebook is “free” (it’s not really), the management has another person create a new page (or wrongly, a personal profile) and the process starts all over again.
It really is time to take Social Media seriously. Sure, you can find someone (read: under-30-something) to set up profiles but that’s 1/1000th of what Social Media marketing means for your store. Your customer lives online. They are spending more and more of their disposable time and income online; they are on Facebook more than they watch TV. Your store needs to be represented well, your marketing message needs to be consistent, and that can’t be done by just “anybody who uses Facebook”.
In the case of this ex-employee, had the company taken their accounts seriously and had him create a dedicated Twitter account to market them, they wouldn’t be fighting it out in court. Had they had him sign a Social Media policy concerning ownership of the accounts, the notion of separating his account from the company would’ve been addressed. While the case will be watched by all internet marketers and businesses, the initial facts of the case look like they’ll swing in the ex-employee’s favor. He owns the email that the account was set up under–pure and simple.
Whichever way this turns out, we can all agree that it would’ve been better to not have it happen in the first place. Court disputes only make the lawyers rich. Move forward into Social Media deliberately. If you’re not a regular user, get educated with how these networks run. Information is power. You’ll make informed decisions about your online reputation, your Social customer, and your Social business.