Nokia’s errant F-bomb tweet and a reputational smear

I’ve always admired how Nokia engages with its customers and fans (often the same) using social media. I love their YouTube videos and I was a passionate evangelist for their products for a couple years before I eventually put down my Nokia N97, flirted briefly with Android (my experience with the HTC Desire was less than “wow”) and switched to an iPhone. Nokia’s staff have always struck me as deeply passionate about their products and the work they do so the tweet that appeared on the Nokia New Zealand Twitter stream yesterday must have been a shock to many.

2013-11-26 Nokia NZ F-you tweet

The tweet was, predictably, taken down and the following apology was published soon afterwards:


As The Next Web pointed out in its post about the tweet, there are a number of explanations for the offending tweet but that may not have mattered much at the time:

As you’d expect, the post has since been deleted. We can think of a few explanations for it, such as hacking, a disgruntled employee, an account mixup, or a practical joke gone awry, but whatever it is, Nokia isn’t going to be winning the Internets today. We’ve reached out to the company to see if we can find out what happened.

Although the tweet was almost certainly not sanctioned by Nokia’s marketing team, it highlights the importance of carefully managing not only access to a brand’s social profiles and establishing clear guidelines for people who do have access to those profiles explaining what acceptable behaviour and content are because whatever is published using those platforms is going to be perceived as representative of the brand to some degree. Aside from the obvious reputational smear, consider the economic impact of a brand that is perceived to have taken a strong stand against its customers, especially at a time when it is undergoing considerable transformation. What if this drop in Nokia’s share price was a result of the tweet (I don’t see an indication that this is the case but this scenario is hypothetically possible)?

So what can brands do?

  1. For starters, manage access to social profiles using a centrally controlled dashboard of some sort. Services like Hootsuite allow brands to establish user accounts and to grant access to multiple social profiles. They also allow for a degree of moderation and, importantly, to revoke access to those profiles without needing to disclose each profile’s access credentials. Of course, access to the dashboard’s administrative settings should also be carefully managed.
  2. Brands should ensure that the passwords they use to secure their social media profiles are secure. Don’t use simple passwords because they are easy to remember, use long and pseudo-random strings with mixed characters. Services like LastPass make managing these long passwords pretty easy and LastPass’ recent update allows people to share passwords.
  3. Implement clear and effectively worded social engagement policies to manage internal stakeholder (not just employees but contractors and partners too) expectations about what they can do on the brand’s behalf. These policies should go beyond simple social media policies and should extend to different forms of engagement. An effective model focuses more on behaviours than on specific technologies. Crucially, these policies should form part of a company’s internal policy framework and be effective performance management tools. Three line social media policies written to be catchy and praise-worthy in the media are typically useless from an enforcement perspective which is, essentially, their purpose.

This particular tweet is just indicative of an ongoing risk brands face. Just as social media profiles are wonderful tools for engaging meaningfully with various stakeholders, they can also be used to wreak havoc on a brand’s reputation. This reminds me of that saying “a moment on your lips, a lifetime on your hips“ (or something like that). A lifetime on the social Web is can be measured in days and weeks because that is how long it can take to kill a reputation. A tweet can be the start of that.

Published by Paul Jacobson

Enthusiast, writer, Happiness Engineer at @automattic. I take photos too. Passionate about my wife, Gina and #proudDad.

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