True Life: I Fired Someone for Bad Behavior on Twitter

Once upon a time, I was working in marketing at a software startup, and we decided to try out a pretty risky campaign at a major tradeshow. I’ll leave out the details to protect the innocent, but it’s important to know that I was constantly watching Twitter during the tradeshow to see if anyone commented (positively or negatively) about the campaign.

To promote the campaign and support my company’s booth staff, I hired 10 temporary brand ambassadors from a modeling agency for the week. There surprisingly wasn’t much discussion happening about our tradeshow campaign on Twitter until, all of a sudden, I saw a user quoting our campaign tagline! I quickly realized the user was making fun of the campaign, and it didn’t take much longer to realize the user was one of my brand ambassadors.

I had NO idea how to react as she used “SMH” to describe her feelings about our campaign. (Translation: SMH = “shaking my head”. Not cool.) I decided to continue investigating the situation by clicking through to her Twitter profile. Lo and behold, this woman was having a full-blown Twitter conversation with another user, all about how much she hated my company and our tradeshow campaign.

Side note: I think it’s also worth mentioning that this woman shouldn’t have been on Twitter during the tradeshow’s peak hours in the first place. She was supposed to be promoting my company’s brand to potential clients.

At this point, I realized I had to react somehow. Knowing that this woman would eventually come to her senses and delete her tweets, I took screenshots of her profile to use as evidence. I also knew I could just send the tweets to the modeling agency and ask them to remove her from the assignment ASAP, which I eventually did. But first, I simply hit the “Follow” button from my company’s Twitter account to remind the brand ambassador that Twitter is a public forum, and your employer can see everything you post. Within minutes, she had made her account private and blocked my corporate Twitter account. But it was too little, too late.

Obviously, the foolish brand ambassador lost the job with my company, which only equated to a few days’ worth of pay. Based on my conversation with the modeling agency, she also was permanently removed from their database as well.  However, the number of promotional modeling agencies in California (where the event took placed) is substantial, so this misstep probably did not financially ruin the brand ambassador.

Hopefully by now, you can see how this situation could easily be extended past a small independent contracting job. My brand ambassador lost a few hundred dollars. However, if I had tweeted similar thoughts about my company, I certainly would have lost my full-time job and all associated benefits. I also would have had no references to provide from the employer where I had spent the majority of my post-college career.

Chances are, we all have days where work frustrates us, but venting on social media is never worth it. Even if you post your gripes on Facebook, where in theory, your employer cannot see what you’ve said, you’re never completely safe. What if you’re friends on Facebook with one of your co-workers, who screenshots the post and sends it to management? What if you think you’re logged into your personal account, but accidentally post from your corporate account? The possibilities are endless.

Bottom line: After a tough day at work, just calm down, tell your roommate/significant other/loved one all about that jerk in the office who keeps eating your sandwiches, and keep the work drama off of social media. Having a job that you hate is better than no job at all. If you leave your job, you want it to be because you found a better opportunity, not because you posted something on social media without considering the consequences.

11 comments

  1. Erin great post! I really enjoyed your real-life example of how social media can be used in a negative way. It is ridiculous that a employee would bad mouth their company’s campaign and think there would be no repercussions. Even though it seemed this employee probably found another job, many employees would not be as lucky. As you mentioned, if you only have experience at one company, you will need a stellar recommendation to advance in your career. It is frightening that one mistake on Twitter can cost a person their job and even their career. This just goes to show how careful people need to be on Twitter and all social media platforms while posting about their jobs or any sensitive subjects.

  2. Yes! All too often people think their online rants are “safe” just because their accounts are private.
    Funny story that’s related to your post – I was involved in a lot of recruiting at my last job, and we received a google alert about being mentioned in a random blog. I click through and this guy is talking about how he’s been interviewing with my company but we’re his #2 choice since his first choice wouldn’t hire him. Dig a little deeper, and I find out that some of his interests and extracurricular activities are *super* questionable. Needless to say, we did not hire the guy. But, it taught me a valuable lesson – never post anything on social media that you wouldn’t say in a crowded room!

  3. Erin, thank you for sharing such a real experience with us. I think that this example shows how easy it is to forget that what we post online can have a real impact in our day to day lives. It’s very convenient to segregate the two lives, online and real world, but the two are converging incredibly quickly. Stories of people getting fired for their posts on SM go viral quite often, therefore I find it funny that people don’t realize or are not conscious that their social media activity will be monitored by their employer.

  4. Erin, I definitely chuckled thinking about you clicking “follow” from your company’s Twitter account. While I don’t see myself using Twitter or my Facebook wall to have a full on conversation, I do think your point about “thinking before you vent” is very relevant. A harmless complaint about having a bad day, or something annoying that may have happened at work, can be misread and misinterpreted. I see many “vent” or “rant” posts on social media and your story reminds all of us that it may be better to just refrain.

  5. Thanks for sharing this. It really amazes me sometimes how careless people can be on social media. I know that it is easy to slip up sometimes on postings things that have nothing to do with work, but can be taken the wrong way and still be a bad look. However, I don’t understand how people deliberately and consciously post negative content about work when they know that everything on social media/the internet is so easily accessible today (even if you are private). I think that this girl was incredibly stupid for doing this especially when she was hired specifically for this campaign! Like did she not know that someone would be monitoring these tweets and that there would be consequences?? Nice post.

  6. Hahaha this was an awesome post. Makes me laugh how people forget the power of screenshots and think that deleting tweets will solve the mess they made. For brand ambassadors gone awry, have you seen Essena O’Neill on Instagram? She used to be a huge social media star/model and now she has gone back and edited her captions to bash the industry of social media business and product placement. Really interesting stuff. Thanks for sharing!

  7. “Once upon on a time,” hmm?

    Aside from the fact that you are like 17 years old in real life, I really liked this post. Great use of a real-life example to scare somebody straight. People hear over and over about how they should be professional on social media channels and be careful about what they post, but the reality is that most people won’t run into this kind of situation. The negative affects, as you mention, are so profound that it is crazy to not pay attention.

  8. Thank you for sharing your experience. People become so comfortable with social media that they forget how public their posts are. Screenshoting the posts was definitely a good call.
    Employees really need to be careful about what they posts. I honestly don’t see why people even feel the need to vent about their work problems online. I would unfollow these people because why would I care about their work problems? Online complaining is not just annoying but as you point out dangerous.
    In todays world it is extremely easy for companies to discover these posts. I know for my job at RedBull my boss is always checking social media and seeing peoples posts. Even if the person does not tweet directly to RedBull or use a RedBull related hashtag, my boss can still find the post.

  9. Great post. Thanks for sharing your experience. We often hear advice for how employees should behave, but I like this angle on how to manage on social media when employees misbehave.

  10. Funny, juicy and so true. Thanks for sharing your experience. I appreciated you walking us through how you handled the situation – not sure I would have know how to react. I sometimes favor the passive aggressive approach so I love that you screenshot the tweets and followed her from the corporate account. I would have maybe also tried to take that person aside to discuss but then again, it’s hard to get through to someone that is doing that so I think you ultimately took the right approach. I even see friends in their 30s post long employment rants. I’m pretty sure one day these will catch up with them.

  11. Great look at the repercussions of ranting on a social network in the heat of the moment. This is something that social media users need to be consciously aware of as they use this platforms. Most people would say that they would never tweet something like “my work sucks”, but when a frustrating situation arises, that could accidentally go out the window. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

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