*Sigh*. Iris Jastram always has the very best blog posts. Well thought out, organized. (In complete opposition to my random grab bag of items.) Her latest is something everyone involved in social media - as consumer or voyeur - should take a look at. Her Best Bad Marketing Ever post is something to behold.
Social media is not like Hollywood, where infamy is just as good as fame, so long as it gets you facetime on camera. If you are a business intending to provide a service - especially in the case of the company mentioned here (I will not be linking to them nor mentioning their name - you can hit Iris's post above or go to the source and read where it all started in Nikki Detmar's Starry Ethics Fail), the only thing you have to build on initially is trust. Social media is a tool to build that trust and create rapport with those folks who might spread your message and advertise your service.
Because I'm known for stating what should be commonsense, and I do hate to disappoint, here you go:
Antagonizing the twittersphere, which is intricately connected to the blogosphere and to the info pros who help to run the info-services-purchasing-and-marketosphere (much in the way the legbone-hipbone-backbone thing works) is a great way for you to help your company jump the shark before you even hit the water. Even if your service is a useful and interesting one, nobody wants to work with - or support - an ass.
And if by chance you *do* have some fledgling employee with a deathwish who hacks your Twitter account and plasters your websites with fraudulent sponsorships and recommendations, for goodness sake, don't get all self-righteous. In fact, you could check out Management Craft's "Ten Ways To Handle Your Mistakes." Works just as well for companies as for middle managers. See particularly the "Don't try to hide mistakes" part. The internet is an elephant - it remembers.
Interesting sidenote: one of the great/awful things about the giant sticky interweb and pervasive social media: it's not just individuals who have serious troll potential anymore. And don't be fooled - like I mentioned above, on the web, the whole "any fame is good fame" thing does not apply. Just as individuals don't want their drunken pictures or their rap sheet to be their first Google hit and are starting to be more careful with how they present themselves in netspace, managers should be well aware of what image they want to portray and how their company's social media interactions will reflect. Today at 9:09EST, the fifth Google hit for the company mentioned above is David Rothman's blog post on the shitstorm, and the sixth is Denmar's post. Not a great showing. And as Denmar so deftly points out, it's not as easy to erase your Twittertracks as one might think. Going back and deleting past posts in the hopes that it'll pull it from the record is bad juju and looks hinky. Best to just admit your wrongs, offer a *sincere* apology, and start the polishing of your reputation as soon as possible. It's also best to consider everything on the web available for perpetuity and just offer retractions.
Now that we all know and love the FailWhale, maybe Twitter should come up with a shark icon for those of us who jump the shark in social media...