Social media is here to stay. Every day more and more organizations make use of services like Twitter and Facebook to reach out to their existing and potential customers.
Connecting with customers via social networks provides a unique way to interact with people and keep them informed about news and information in real time, but, as recent events have shown, it is important to have a plan in place detailing roles and expectations within your organization.
A current California lawsuit provides a cautionary tale for organizations with employees participating on social networks on their behalf.
Mobile phone retailer and tech news hub PhoneDog.com had a staff member who tweeted as @PhonedogNoah while working there. When Noah Kravitz and PhoneDog parted ways, Noah changed his Twitter handle to @noahkravitz and kept the seventeen thousand plus followers he had attracted while tweeting as @PhonedogNoah.
According to The New York Times, Kravitz claimed that PhoneDog told him he could keep his Twitter account in exchange for posting occasionally. It is now eight months later, and PhoneDog, referring to his Twitter followers as a customer list, seeks damages of $2.50 per month per Twitter follower for a total of $340,000 from Kravitz.
Since this story has hit the news, PhoneDog has published their side of the situation in which they present a their view that this has all been a far more complex situation stretching back to promises made and not kept by Kravitz when he left the organization.
And, of course, PhoneDog promoted this message via Twitter.
Noah joined the PhoneDog team in April 2006. During that period, PhoneDog.com was in the very early stages of becoming the personality-driven mobile tech review site it is today. … Over the next four years, we invested in Noah and the site by sending him to trade shows and conferences from San Francisco, Vegas, New York, Barcelona and many places in between. … During this time, we also expanded our efforts into many forms of social media, starting with our YouTube channel, then to Twitter and Facebook respectively; each with the very specific intent to grow PhoneDog’s social media following and its loyal audience. From all of our efforts, the site’s popularity continued to grow and Noah essentially became a micro-celebrity of sorts. What started out as a small part-time freelance opportunity grew into a very well paid career for Noah.
So when Noah notified us in October 2010 that he wanted to leave PhoneDog and the mobile tech industry to pursue something more “meaningful,” we were obviously disappointed. However, we completely respected his decision and wished him our most sincere best of luck.
Shortly after Noah left the company, we found that Noah’s intentions had changed. Whatever his motives, he began publishing content for other tech publishers while still being paid by PhoneDog, thereby going against the terms we agreed to prior to his departure. In addition, he was promoting the competitors’ content to the Twitter account we clearly had and have rights to.
Regardless of who said what, and when, this is a matter that will probably be settled in a courtroom unless both sides come to some agreement.
The best thing to come out of this, for anyone, will be if organizations take a moment to think about their social media strategies and ensure that both the organization and its staff members are clear about their expectations in regards to social network contacts in the event of a parting of the ways.
I find it sad that this matter has come to be a matter to be passionately debated by people who were not part of the original discussions and agreements; however, every new innovation in customer communication needs a cautionary tale.
Unlimited Priorities can help you plan and implement an effective social media strategy. Once implemented, we can help you monitor, improve it and ensure that it stays current.