Australian Swimmer and Olympic champion Stephanie Rice lost her lucrative sponsorship deal with Jaguar after Rice tweeted "suck on that faggots" after Australia beat South Africa in a rugby match on Saturday. Rice apologized at a press conference in Sydney on Tuesday, but it was not enough to salvage her relationship with the luxury automaker, which terminated her endorsement deal and also took back a $90,000 Jaguar auto she had been given.
This vividly illustrates one of the most important points I make in talks about social media: the speed and ease with which people can make social media posts, and the enormous reach of social media (famous tweeters, as an example, can have millions of followers), means that careers--and brands--can be ruined in the blink of an eye. It's crucial for brand owners to educate their employees--especially those who are charged with officially using social media on behalf of the company--to think carefully before posting. A good corporate social media policy should address this issue, but that's just a start. The best policy in the world is useless if your employees don't ever read it, or don't understand how it applies in the real world. You must back up your policy with employee education that is replete with real world examples. As well, you should consider incorporating social media training into your new employee orientation so employees understand the rules of the road from day one.