Corporate Policy Meets Social Media Justice
Image by Ben McLeod via Flickr
There's a controversy brewing in Ankeny over a corporate decision, and now social media justice is being meted out by everyday people. Here's the story.
In May 2010, Heather DeJoode was driving her minivan in Ankeny and was hit by a reckless driver. The result was devastating. Heather's two children, Carson and Claire, were killed. Heather survived, but she has been unable to return to work and is continuing her recovery.
Troy DeJoode, the father, was left to care for and comfort the surviving child, Chase.
Shelley Huss, the director of Chase's daycare in Ankeny, contacted her corporate office to see what the company could do for the DeJoode family. The company agreed to provide a week's worth of free care. Huss decided to offer free care to the family as long as it was needed. The family resumed paying for Chase's care in March 2011, but an audit caught the fact that Chase's care was provided at no cost.
Shelley Huss was fired for her decision to contradict corporate policy.
What happened next is a corporate nightmare. A spontaneous uprising is taking place on Childtime's Facebook page. Parents and other community members are expressing outrage that Childtime would fire Ms. Huss for her decision to extend free care to the family.
Here is some advice to help any company that is dealing with negative comments on social media pages.
- Get out in front of criticism: Childtime's first error was not to proactively address the controversy on its own page. By doing this, they left themselves open to getting slammed by negative comments, which is exactly what happened.
- Most importantly: Do NOT delete relevant comments. As tempting as it may be, most comments should be allowed to stand as is. Only off-subject and abusive comments should be deleted. Some posters to the Childtime Facebook page have reported that their posts have been removed, so they've reposted repeatedly. Don't get into a pissing match with people. Once you've deleted a comment and it reappears, you have a decision to make. Either allow the comment to stand, or delete it and block the person.
- Have a comments policy in place ahead of time. This policy should be posted on your Facebook page and website, and detail company policy for dealing with comments.
- Exercise limited control over "wall posts." Childtime's Facebook wall allows links and videos to be freely posted. At this point, they should not change the setting, but all companies should discuss limiting this option.
- Answer comments within reason. In this case, when all the comments are so overwhelmingly negative, it does not help to answer each and every post. Childtime is attempting to answer some negative posts with its side of the story, but it has also resorted to "astroturfing" its own profile with positive comments from made-up Facebook accounts. Classic case of what not to do!!!
- Offer to take hostile conversations offline. Childtime should host an informational conference call or post an online Q&A. Do not confront angry commentors with defensive posts.
- Don't change the subject. Instead of calmly answering complaints, Childtime is attempting to change the conversation by posting thank-you messages to the few people who agree with their point of view. They are killing themselves with that tactic, it's only making people angrier.
Social media presents both opportunity and risk for Childtime. Since the mainstream media has caught on to the story, the company should keep the conversation going. What do you think Childtime should do? Should they buckle to popular opinion and rehire Shelley Huss, or should they stick to their guns?