News travels fast - social media and employer brand

Posted 14 December 2011 by

Apple recently dismissed an employee who had made negative remarks about the brand and its flagship products on social media. Apparently triggered by a failed transfer opportunity, the employee was told his remarks could have seriously damaged the brand - which at Apple is king.

The ‘psychological contract’ between employer and employee usually means there is a line of respect which neither crosses, but the danger with the contract today is that when the line is crossed, the fallout may just get broadcast to millions of people.

Should employees automatically be expected to be brand advocates for their employers, and if so, how do businesses draw the line between a bit of venting about a bad day in the office and a harmful comment which could project negatively to potential clients, customers and candidates?

To make it clear what is and is not acceptable, it may be necessary for a company to consider an social network specific contract which sets out policy and actions to cover online comments and messages. This could include factors such as whether certain individuals are allowed to position themselves as official representatives of the company, but should also consider what is disrespectful and harmful vs. what is legitimately critical.

For example, in a country like the UK, if a striking worker tweeted that their employer was being unreasonable in a pay negotiation; would this be cause for disciplinary action?

It would be unrealistic to expect an individual to go home or to the pub and never let off steam about their boss, employer or clients. However, the issue is that many employees are making the mistake of doing this exact same thing online, in full public view.

More for employers to consider is the fact that online comments and posts can circulate fast and so have huge impact. The Renaissance Hotel ‘Joey Quits’ video uploaded to YouTube by a now former employee has been viewed almost three million times. The clip is an extreme, but prime example of how through social media, brands that have taken years to build can be damaged very quickly.

So what should businesses take away when it comes to social media and employer brand? First of all – the brand values of a company should be apparent at every stage of the employee ‘experience’.

If customer service is at the heart of everything a company does, this should filter through to the day to day workings of the business. If for example, a job applicant completes an interview and is then not followed up again, this gives out a contradictory message which is clearly going to disgruntle people.

The second thing to bear in mind is the sheer power of social media. While almost all major businesses are using social media to promote themselves or communicate with customers, what they may have failed to think about is how their own employees are talking about the business online.

The rapid exchange of information via social media means that water cooler moments just got bigger.

[No liability will be accepted where any person acts in reliance on these notes or views. Employers and employees should seek specific advice on their particular circumstances at issue.]

Posted in