Lately, times haven’t been too good for HMV, the British multinational music retailer. In January the company officially entered administration and some UK stores were closed. Then last week, as 190 people were in the midst of hearing that they were losing their jobs, the company’s Twitter account was hijacked by disgruntled employees who live tweeted events as they unfolded.
Live tweets included: “There are over 60 of us being fired at one! Mass execution, of loyal employees who love the brand. #hmvXFactorFiring”, and “We’ve all been fired, in a group, of 50+ people! And those who ruined the business are safe…hooray! #hmvXFactor” (sic).
Within 20 minutes of the first tweet, all mentions had been deleted despite the marketing director’s apparent lack of social media skills. One tweet read, “Just overheard our Marketing Director (he’s staying, folks) ask, “How do I shut down the Twitter?” #hmvXFactorFiring” (sic).
However, deleting the tweets failed to kill the story. In fact, it fuelled interest and the debacle went viral in social media. Then, the story of rogue employees was reported in mainstream media around the world. In all, there were more than 14,000 mentions of the #hmvXFactor hashtag online, most of them on Twitter.
If there is a lesson to be learned from HMV’s experience, it is that the old ways of telling employees bad news are no longer relevant. Companies announcing redundancies have no control over what stories are told or how they are told. Communications strategy around such events is significantly changed in the social media world where employees are empowered and vocal. In this case, it would have been an excellent idea to change the passwords on all the corporate and brand social media accounts before making such a controversial announcement.
This article was originally posted at ThornleyFallis.ca