Sticky Situations in Social Media

Posted in 2011 The Gnovis Blog

Recently, a copy of the Association of Corporate Counsel’s ACC Docket came across my desk at work. As I was flipping through, I came upon an article discussing the different hats that in-house counselors are expected to wear in their roles as corporate attorneys. Some of those hats included strategic thinker, business advisor, innovator, educator, cultural liaison, dealmaker, and the list goes on.

But it’s not just lawyers who are asked to wear many hats in their professional lives. More and more often, jobs in our global society require well-rounded, adaptable people who are ready and willing to fulfill a wide range of roles – oftentimes with very little notice.

tps reportsThis article reminded me that there are many lessons you don’t learn in school (like how to think strategically or how to tell a good joke), and until recently, social media was definitely one of those “things.” For that matter, who had even heard of social media ten years ago? But these days, social media is blowing up in the business world and dynamic professionals are not only encouraged but expected to be proficient and savvy when it comes to new media and digital platforms. Whether in law firms, accounting firms, think tanks, or doctor’s offices, terms like “online presence,” “best media practices” and “Facebook fan pages” are thrown around the office like so many TPS reports.

In the past months, we have seen companies like Aflac, Chrysler, and Kenneth Cole suffer from social media blunders due to rogue tweets by employees or by company leaders themselves. With the new and recent explosion of social media in business, it makes one wonder: how would I handle a situation like this?

Enter well-rounded, quick thinking professionals who can make strategic decisions on a dime.

In February of this year, a social media professional at the American Red Cross posted the following Tweet, thinking it was to her personal account:

Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer… when we drink we do it right #gettngslizzerd

And you know what’s next. That’s right, the Tweet made it to the Red Cross’s site instead. Oops!

While many companies “take action” against employees who make a mistake such as this, the Red Cross flipped the rogue tweet into a positive outcome by uniting beer enthusiasts to promote a blood drive that ended up receiving a great turnout. While removing the tweet, the Red Cross handled the situation with humor and transparency, posting soon thereafter:

We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys.

Funny, isn’t it? While I feel confident that the Red Cross was not excited about having an employee share drinking habits on its Twitter account, some quick thinker at the organization had the smarts and the humor to turn the situation around and make an otherwise embarrassing gaffe into a “no sweat” mistake that was brushed off in no time. And besides, who doesn’t like an organization who can laugh at itself?

Thinking about all the “hats” (including media savviness) that recent graduates and job hunters are expected bring to the table as new hires, I am glad we have a place to learn and experiment here at CCT. At the intersection of many different disciplines and ways of thinking, CCT students are in a unique position to learn about new media, social media, and digital platforms both inside the classroom and outside the classroom and to gain the tools to “put our best digital foot forward” in the ever-changing world of the increasingly digitized workplace.

And, hopefully, we’ll learn to think on our feet as well.