Vodafone UK has been under fire on social media and digital communication channels after an obscene tweet was published: “VodafoneUK is fed up of homos and is going after beaver“. Now there’s a couple of interesting points to come out of this one – for example, Vodafone might not be able to sack the person who sent it (if they even know who it was).
But it also begs the question: does VodafoneUK have a proper social media strategy or does it just hand this work out to the juniors?
Let’s cut to the chase – what the Vodafone person put out was an offensive comment in more ways than one, so whoever sent it deserves an absolute bollocking. But after that, it’s a murky area. I’d sack someone for posting that comment for the following reasons:
However, what if a company doesn’t have a social media use policy in place – I can wager that if less than 30% of US companies have a social media policy then the figure is even smaller in the UK and elsewhere. A lawyer could argue that there’s no policy to breach so you can’t sack them for that or misuse of the account.
As for offensive, what if the person genuinely doesn’t like homosexuals? I find that offensive, but is not liking a group in society and declaring it a basis for sacking someone? Could a decent lawyer argue homos isn’t negative but merely slang? I would doubt it, but you never know…
Can you sack someone for upsetting customers? I don’t know. The flipside is that there may be neddish/chav-ish or homophobes out there who go ‘hell yeah, I like what this guy posted’. (which I find distasteful, but that’s not to say there are people out there who think like that).
The other question is this: who was running the Twitter account? Was it passed to a junior because it wasn’t seen as important? Was it a case of the company was lax with who could access the account? Was the password stolen internally? Was it done by an employee with mental issues (seriously)? Was it an employee on their last day?
It does prove the point though that companies need social media guidlines, policies and trained staff to use it. You wouldn’t put an inexperienced or untrained person in front of a TV crew so why would you let someone untrained speak to the whole wide world?
There’s lots of questions and very few answers – yet. This is one that Vodafone should put someone out there before the end of the weekend, apologise, explain what happened and try to move on. But they need to explain why and how it happened first.
And I’ll bet a lot of companies are now scrambling to try and get social media policies in place. Or they should be. Odds are they aren’t.
These sort of cases amaze me. As we say on the front page, communication isn’t rocket science, but for some it clearly is.
(And to think I thought I was having a bad day because a member of Dunning Design called me “a dick” for bringing out inexpensive social media and PR plans for small and medium businesses. Man, I got off easy compared to the abuse Vodafone will probably take over this.)