HMVLast week, United Kingdom-based entertainment retailer HMV, currently in administration, announced a round of firings to staff. One of the people being fired was Poppy Rose Cleere, who has taken responsibility for a series of tweets sent from the brand’s Twitter profile as the firings were being announced. Check out stories by NME and the London Evening Standard if this is the first you’ve heard of it.

She posted a series of tweets that were either snarky or offered her personal criticisms of the company. In an ironic twist, one of the tweets criticized the company for allowing an intern to set up the Twitter account, an action which she called “unpaid, technically illegal.” According to her sister, though, Ms. Cleere offered to work for free for the company in order to stay on board, apparently unconcerned with the legal ramifications that might have.

It isn’t hard to imagine how something like this would spread online. “Yeah, stick it to the man! Yay for the little guy!” and what not.

Unfortunately, I Wouldn’t Hire Her

Ms. Cleere has many fans online, it seems, and her sister mentioned that she has received “many job offers.” I wouldn’t be surprised by that. Especially for companies that need publicity and could benefit from the PR that will follow, it could be an opportunity.

That said, I would not hire her. She’s demonstrated that she can’t be trusted with company resources. What would stop her from using the next company’s storefront, website, Twitter account, email list or other resource for her own gain? What would stop her from doing it to yours? Nothing.

I don’t take issue with what Ms. Cleere said. I take issue with where she said it and the liberties she took with something that was not hers. Namely, using the brand’s account instead of her personal one. But, of course, if she had done that, she wouldn’t be enjoying this fame. Once someone demonstrates that they feel comfortable doing that some of thing, it is a clue to whether they would do it again.

People get too caught up in the “little guy” stuff. I don’t know Ms. Cleere and her word carries no more weight than any other person I do not know. So when she criticizes HMV, I give it the same credence that I’d give if it was said by any other person I did not know.

What HMV Should Be Criticized For

I think that, as is typical in this sort of temporary “crisis,” people who blog about social media are quick to make a case study out of this. That may be good for pageviews, but there isn’t really much meat on this bone. The main thing HMV could and should have done is to secure the Twitter account before announcing the firing. They shouldn’t have given her the benefit of the doubt when it came to professionalism. People who are fired sometimes wonder “why did I have to be escorted off the premises by security after I was fired?” Well, this type of situation is why. Because, sometimes, people act like this.

In some cases, it isn’t as simple as just changing a password, as some would have you believe. For example, I changed my Twitter password on Saturday in response to the recent security breach. Yet, I am still able to access my account through TweetDeck, without updating anything. I suspect that if I were to revoke the access of the TweetDeck app in my Twitter settings that might do the trick. Though, honestly, I’m not 100% sure. Instead, it might simply be better to allow Twitter access through a third party app (like SocialEngage) where they must login, rather than allowing them to login to the Twitter account directly. (This is probably overkill for many smaller companies and organizations).

Valley of Rocks
Creative Commons License photo credit: Sam Howzit

Also, it is easy to forget the paranoia that changing the password can create. “Why did they change the Twitter password?! What does it mean?” Once you tell them, “Why don’t you trust me?! I was the one who set up the account! This is how you repay me?! That was a slimy thing to do.” So, it isn’t as black and white as many might suggest.

For me, the one main lesson or, better yet, reminder from this whole story is that you should be careful about who you trust with access to your community. If Ms. Cleere is to be believed, she is passionate about social media and shared this passion with her superior(s) at HMV and they rewarded her by giving her authority over their social media presence. In the end, that was the biggest error they made in this whole story about the tweets themselves: the decision to trust her with the account.

What Can You Do?

The scary thing is that, although it is easy to criticize HMV, and they are certainly not without fault here, the same sort of thing could absolutely happen to anyone because we all have access points to our friends, customers, clients and community. And while companies should limit this access, you still have to grant the access to some people. When they have that access, they have the power to use those channels inappropriately. So the question comes down to: who do you trust?

That isn’t an exact science. Have you ever hired someone that didn’t work out? Promoted a moderator who ended up being terrible? I mean, as careful as you are, as much as you try to get to know someone, it can be hard to know what they will do in a moment of weakness. Of course, people change, as well. The person you trust today could be a totally different person in the future.

How to avoid this? Well, you can’t. Not 100%. But if you’re HMV, you tighten up the access and you review who decided to give her that access (if they are still with the company) and how that access is doled out in the future (HMV’s future, at this point, is unclear). You do the best you can, which is to say that only people who need the access should have it and those people should be as high quality as you can find. To the greatest extent possible, you try to ensure that the people with access are people who understand the responsibility that comes with that access.

If you should ever have to get rid of those people, hopefully they won’t take any liberties with that access. You could also secure the account, prior to telling them that they are being let go. But this sort of thing could still happen to you, no matter the mitigation efforts.

Once again, it comes down to: who can you trust? The only way this sort of situation can be completely avoided without exception is if you are 100% right about 100% of the people that you choose to trust. Good luck.