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March 2, 2012

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Google and the Unexpected Consequences of Social Media

Google’s company culture has been an example for many businesses. Tech companies try to copy it; more traditional companies can’t quite buy into it. As a leader in the Internet space, Google encourages collaboration through many avenues, including the use of social media. This has suited Google well—but what happens when the unplanned happens?

On October 12, 2011, a Google employee posted a rant that was critical of Google+ externally. The employee immediately took it down and explained that the rant was intended to be an internal document. This could have been disastrous for the company. In situations like these, there can be damage to the brand, and confidential information can reach unintended people. In this rant, the employee pointed to the lack of Google+ use by a senior executive, which could have hurt the public’s perception of the product.

What would your company have done in this situation? Would the employee be fired? Would your company be able to react quickly to the publicity from this event?

Google handled it in a manor consistent with its culture. Google has an open culture and, therefore, did not freak out about one person’s opinion being shared publicly. They had an effective PR strategy for downplaying the event. Lastly, they did not fire the employee because they believed him when he said that it was an accident that the message was posted publicly.

Lessons can be learned from this event:

  1. Be ready to react to a social media incident.
  2. Evaluate all the facts of what happened before letting an employee go.
  3. Make sure your top executives support your social media endeavors.
  4. Always check to whom you are sending emails before hitting the send button.

This is another incident that shows that social media comes with many rewards, but companies still need to be ready to handle the potential negative effects. This example was an unfortunate mistake that had little effect of the company, but this is not always the case.

Kudos to Google for its handling of this situation.

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