Home Depot learned a painful lesson on outsourcing this past Saturday, after an employee of a social media agency tweeted a racist comment with a photo from ESPN’s College Game Day of some Clemson bucket drummers.
— Jonathan Wall (@imfromraleigh) November 8, 2013
The tweet was deleted almost immediately, but not before @ImFromRaleigh managed to grab a screenshot of it.
Home Depot (@HomeDepot) was not amused either. To their credit, they sprang into action, deleted the tweet, and followed up with the message that the (unnamed) agency was immediately fired, as was the employee who posted the tweet
We have zero tolerance for anything so stupid and offensive. Deeply sorry. We terminated agency and individual who posted it.
— The Home Depot (@HomeDepot) November 7, 2013
They also apologized over and over to everyone who tweeted how upset they were with the tweet. It may have been a copy and paste job, but I’m impressed by the fact that they did it.
But here’s the bigger lesson that everyone needs to learn: Social media, like every other service, process, and occupation in the world is filled with stupid people. Stupid people who say stupid things.
This is why it’s important to screen for character, and not just experience. This is where price becomes less important than quality. This is where the lowest priced agency is not the best choice.
Too many horror stories like this abound, where big companies hire agencies to manage their social media. And the agencies hire people who apparently can’t tell the difference between their own accounts and their corporate accounts. Or who are prone to say things that are racist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise idiotic. Or, if they didn’t actually mean it that way, didn’t wait five crucial seconds to see whether a comment could be taken that way. They didn’t just ask themselves, “should I send this, or will someone be offended?”
This kind of thing is going to happen again and again. We shouldn’t be shocked or surprised by it. We shouldn’t even say this is a problem with outsourcing, because it happens to companies with full-time employees too.
But companies need to start looking at some of the intangible qualities an employee or agency. Are they careful and do they think ahead, or do they shoot from the hip? Are they low-key or are they prone to impulsive outbursts?
In my own business, I see people choosing price first and quality second (if at all). When you’re choosing a social media agency, you can’t just go with the cheapest one. Because the cheapest one is going to hire the least experienced, least expensive employees.
And you will truly get what you pay for.