Ding-dong over social media

19 April, 2013

Retailers are being urged to keep tighter controls on the way managers and staff use social media sites after Oddbins landed in hot water over a Twitter post following the death of Margaret Thatcher.

A post from the chain’s store in Crouch End, north London, said: “If for any reason anyone feels like celebrating anything we have Taittinger available at £10 less than usual at £29. Just saying ...”

It was taken down shortly afterwards and a member of staff was suspended pending a disciplinary hearing. Oddbins confirmed that the hearing had taken place but would not disclose the outcome. Staff at the store also declined to comment.

Annie Mcfarlane, head of community at social media consultancy Yomego, whose clients include distiller Morrison Bowmore, Tesco, Durex and Ladbrokes, said retailers needed to ensure that staff throughout the business were given clear guidance on the use of social media accounts.

“If you look back to some of Oddbins’ own marketing, such as when it offered discounts to mothers, bankers and ginger people, it has been a bit daring and edgy,” she said.

“I don’t think it would be fair to suspend an employee if that approach has given them reason to think that sort of thing is OK.

“Your people need to have a reasonable expectation of what is and isn’t considered appropriate.”

Oddbins issued a statement which said: “The tweet in question was made by a member of branch staff without the approval or knowledge of the company’s management. The tweet was completely inappropriate and in the worst possible taste.

“We would like to apologise profusely for the offence it has quite rightly caused.”

The apology was posted on the Oddbins Facebook page, drawing a tirade of responses from followers calling for the staff member’s reinstatement.

Macfarlane said giving talented staff freedom to communicate in an edgy manner was a useful way of drawing followers to a business, but needed proper policing.

“Increasingly, this is not just something that’s done by the PR manager or the marketing manager but the people on the ground,” she added. “There’s a training issue. It can be risky if you don’t have the proper levels of control.”

An Oddbins spokesman told OLN it did have a social media policy and that staff were trained on its appropriate use.

Other specialist chains, including Majestic, declined to discuss their staff’s use of social media.

Adam Burnett, Bargain Booze marketing director, said: “We use social media as a positive way to engage with our customers and encourage footfall, purchase and loyalty. We have built a fan base of over 44,000 people on Facebook and 1,200 customers follow us on Twitter.

“It’s a great way to tell people about our offers, run competitions and communicate the brand’s humour and personality. Facebook has been a great platform to extend the reach of our campaigns and get feedback from customers.

“We manage all of our social media activity from within our marketing team, with support from our agencies and franchisees who are encouraged to send us local information to promote via our national pages.”

Julie Randall, senior manager for digital communications at Waitrose, said: “Some of our wine specialists use Twitter to commu- nicate their knowledge and enthusiasm for wine, working alongside our social media team.”

Tesco’s social media policy urges employees to approach social media with “sound judgement and common sense”.

It says: “There is a big difference between speaking ‘on behalf of’ Tesco and speaking ‘about’ Tesco.”

It urges staff to “treat people with respect and avoid speaking negatively about other people, companies or organisations”, and adds: “Be mindful that media and competitors are watching.

“Help us to protect our creativity and integrity by thinking carefully about the content you share online.”

Marks & Spencer’s code of ethics and behaviour, published last September, tells staff using social media accounts: “You have general obligations to act in the best interests of the company.

“This would include posting inappropriate comments on blogs and social networking sites, for example about customers and colleagues.”

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