Twitter marketing case study - HMV's weak social media policy damages brand

Digital marketing industry case study library

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Does your brand have a good social media policy in place? This Twitter marketing case stud shows what can happen when firms engage in social media without having the right approach. Marketers being sacked by struggling retailer used the company's official Twitter feed to release their anger, creating a PR crisis. It makes for painful reading, but reminds every business how transparent the world is today.

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Brand: HMV | Sector: FMCG, Retail, Recruitment | Country: UK | Objective: Build brand engagement | Format: Social Media, Twitter |

Back in January 2013, disgruntled employees at HMV turned to Twitter to report on mass sackings at the firm, hijacking an official account to describe a "mass execution of loyal employees who love the brand".

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Using one of HMV’s official Twitter accounts ‘HMV Tweets’, staff took to tweeting live from the retailers’ HR department as 60 employees were being sacked after the company fell into administration last month.

The first tweet simply said: "We're tweeting live from HR where we're all being fired! Exciting!!!"

HMV management finally regained control of the account and the offending tweets were deleted - but not before they had been copied and retweeted under the trending hashtag #hmvXFactorFiring.

It then tweeted: "There are over 60 of us being fired at once! Mass execution, of loyal employees who love the brand. #hmvXFactorFiring"

Under the Twitter handle @hmvtweets the member of staff explained that they were going rogue to show their anger at the way staff had been treated following the announcement that the company had gone into administration.

Within minutes of the tweets starting it appeared that their plan had been rumbled after a tweet read: "Just overheard our Marketing Director (he's staying, folks!) ask "How do I shut down Twitter?"

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Moments later, tweets were being deleted seconds after they had been posted. However, some later appeared again on the account.

Minutes after the live commentary began, administrators Deloitte, confirmed the loss of 190 jobs across the companies’ head office and distribution network.

Delloite refused to comment on the Twitter hijack but said in a statement: "Since our appointment as Administrators over two weeks ago, we have been assessing the financial position of HMV. Following this review, a number of redundancies at the head office and distribution centres have been made. Although such decisions are always difficult, it is a necessary step in restructuring the business to enhance the prospects of securing its future as a going concern.

“We have been very pleased with the level of interest in the business as a going concern, whilst the response from customers has demonstrated the demand to see HMV remain on the high street. Equally, the support received from suppliers has been very positive and has enabled us to continue trading during the administration. As a result of all of these factors, I remain hopeful we will be able to secure a future for a restructured business.”

'Bind-sided by employees'

Commenting on the HMV Twitter account, Jason Woodford, CEO of digital marketing agency, SiteVisibility said: “Firstly let’s hope whoever buys the business, if someone does of course, that they have a stringent digital strategy in place. A brand as recognisable and as large as HMV shouldn’t be getting blind-sided by their employees on the internet, even if they are set to be made redundant.

"The world of eCommerce is tightly knit and well connected, so I hope people aren't tempted to inadvertently burn their bridges as they share their momentary misfortune. We are talking about one of the largest high street brands here. And whilst we were all fully aware that the organisation would likely be making a round of redundancies in the not too distant future, this Twitter faux pas has seriously put a black mark against its social media ethics and general know-how.

“It’s been noted that its senior marketing management are asking how to close down their own Twitter account; it shouldn’t be a question asked at that level. If they need it done then they should just do it. It’s clear that too many people along the chain have got hold of the Twitter account details and have exploited HMV’s vulnerable position. This has led to a brand new dilemma in which ultimately ends in them closing their Twitter account. Unhappy staff, unhappy customers and it all publicised over the internet, senior management there must be wondering - can get any worse right now?

“However, by shutting the account down now would make for a poor and ill-advised PR move. What people will appreciate now is honesty and transparency it’s just a shame that via their now former employees have provided a bit too much of the latter already.”

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