Employment and Migration Blog

Protecting your business from social media

Posted by Rita Khodeir, Lisa Qiu on 3 Jul 2017

Assisted by Emily Lucas

It’s always risky business to engage in social commentary about political matters or trending topics for the obvious reason that it can turn really bad, really quickly. That’s the exact lesson American journalist, David Leavitt, learnt recently when he tried to leverage off the horrific Manchester bombing.

Within minutes of the attack, Leavitt had attempted to ‘entertain’ his audience by tweeting “MULTIPLE CONFIRMED FATALITIES at Manchester Arena. The last time I listened to Ariana Grande, I almost died too.”

Rightfully so, the Twittersphere erupted with rage and sent Leavitt’s account into meltdown.

After being inundated with condemnatory tweets, Levitt apologised and explained to his followers that his conduct was just consistent with his Twitter habits, that is, he “always made stupid jokes about whatever’s trending.”

So what can companies learn from Leavitt’s #socialmediafail?

  1. Humour and irony is not always appropriate. There is definitely a time and place for humour and being “witty” about death or tragedy is never appropriate.
  2. If you are going to comment on current events and in particular tragedies, try and make it positive! The hashtag #RoomForManchester gained traction and saw local businesses offering taxi rides and hotel rooms free of charge to help those injured or stranded.
  3. Avoid the temptation to comment immediately on trending topics, especially in respect of tragic events. You should have a good understanding of the topic you are commenting on to ensure your comments are both accurate and appropriate. 
  4. If your post or tweet causes offence, post a simple, honest and unqualified apology.

    The online conduct of David Leavitt has also lead us to consider the actions available to companies when an employee, contractor, ambassador or agent goes rogue on social media.
  5. Make a statement dissociating your brand from the views of the individual, which is what Boston News (who Leavitt had previously written for) did after his tweet.
  6. Ensure that you have a clear social media policy which sets out what is acceptable social media use and what is not. As a company, having a social media policy in place will enable you to take appropriate action when an employee does misbehave on social media.
  7. Also consider extending the policy to ambassadors, agents and contractors – Leavitt is a freelance journalist and was not an employee of news outlet which he has written for before. However, a Google search quickly associates those brands with him, and therefore, his tweets.

If you need assistance with establishing and protecting the brand of your business, contact Rita Khodeir in our Litigation & Dispute Resolution team and if you need assistance with your social media policy, contact Lisa Qiu in our Employment and Business Migration team: