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1 February 2013 - 9:33am | posted by | 8 comments

HMV Twitter hijack: It’s hard to believe there are still social media lessons to be learnt

Pete Sigrist on the lessons to be learned from HMVPete Sigrist on the lessons to be learned from HMV

Yesterday afternoon, the community manager for the official HMV Twitter (@hmvtweets) account live-tweeted the firing of 60 staff. In the space of 15 minutes, the official account, followed by over 70,000 people, saw the following tweets:

• There are over 60 of us being fired at once! Mass execution, of loyal employees who love the brand. #hmvXFactorFiring

• We’re tweeting live from HR where we’re all being fired! Exciting!!

The tweet went viral within half an hour as it was retweeted 1,300 times in the first 30 minutes. Someone at HMV swiftly deleted the tweets, but then others popped up as the keyboard seemed to be torn between employees.

The final tweet read:

• Just overheard our Marketing Director (he’s staying, folks) ask “How do I shut down Twitter?” #hmvXFactorFiring

For a time, trying to access the HMV page returned the Fail Whale (which was a nice throwback to 2009) as it seemed unable to cope with the stress.

The tweets have now since been deleted. In fact, if you look at the HMV feed, it seems that January has been a pretty quiet month – service as usual for the music and entertainment retailer that’s been going since 1921.

Unfortunately, I like everybody else live in the real world, and know that it is not service as usual for the company, which has recently gone into administration. Living in this world also means that we have all seen the tweets that were deleted. People quickly took screenshots, and as is the case with the Streisand effect, if you try to delete something online, it multiples, and so those screen shots quickly went viral.

The tweets themselves were tweeted with a rather sour taste of humour, but sadness and bitterness shouldn’t be unexpected among a group of people who wanted a little a transparency.

The fact that this sort of Twitter fiasco can still happen is farcical. It’s hard to believe that, in 2013, social media lessons remain to be learned.

The public tend to distrust corporate secrecy and when it comes to information like this, it’s hard to keep it quiet. Comms strategies from the start should be about controlling the message but also respecting the medium your users use. Deleting tweets or Facebook messages rarely ends well, and is symptomatic of a corporate attitude that hasn’t grasped the reputational value of corporate transparency.

These tweets show how easy it is for senior management to lose control of social media. As tweets were deleted and then new ones appeared, it was clear passwords had not been changed. If you need to reduce the headcount in your organisation, make sure that those you are firing don’t have the opportunity to publicly humiliate you. Changing Twitter passwords must not have registered as a necessary step to take beforehand.

Increasingly, if you’re a high-profile brand or, especially, if you operate in a regulated industry, tools like Meltwater Buzz, Hootsuite or Syncapse are becoming essential levers of control over who publishes what on your official feed.

Transparency has its merits. Instead of deleting tweets, isn’t it about time for corporations to learn that you have an unique opportunity when everyone’s talking about you to get your side of the story across. It’s hard to believe that there are still so many lessons to be learned about what works online. But clearly, not everyone has yet set aside the time to take Social Media 101.

Pete Sigrist is managing director of 33 Digital, the digital PR sister agency of Hotwire.


1 Feb 2013 - 09:49

I think calling the person a 'community manager' is clearly the disconnect between what marketing websites think and what (still) many large companies do in regard to Social Media, this person was probably just somebody who was seen to 'update their Twitter feed' by the company, probably the same person that handled their Facebook account.

There are lessons to be learnt, because there are still so many major companies that don't understand the scope of what can be achieved via social media - especially with a groundswell PR disaster like this. As was mentioned in one of the tweets, one of the senior managers wanted to know 'how to turn twitter off'.

1 Feb 2013 - 10:20

Yesterday's Twitter charade was indicative of why HMV went bust in the first place: it was and remains unable to adapt to changing attitudes and business practices. The company's only real value lies in the integrity of its brand and the passion of its employees – both of which took a hammering yesterday.

1 Feb 2013 - 11:08
elle's picture

The person responsible for tweeting came forward yesterday evening, stating that as she has no family or mortgage she felt she was the only person who could speak out. She clarified that she had set up HMV's social media as an unpaid intern, and handed over access and control when asked to do so. I believe she has now taken a break from social networking - but she certainly made her point, in that HMV bosses are still ignoring the huge impact of social media on a modern business.

1 Feb 2013 - 12:24

@Brandon - you're right of course - we're still in the early days of use - but the basics are surely easy to get right? I find it baffling things like this are overlooked!

@Dan - completely agree - this example was symptomatic of underlying uselessness

@elle - I love that interns are getting this sort of experience, but for marketing heads to be so in the dark as a result is unforgivable

1 Feb 2013 - 16:18
Ogilvy's picture

Honestly can we all calm down and stop treating the tweeter like she was some kind of brave martyr? All she did was tweet that HMV were making some people redundant. Who gives a shit? If you read her self-important little whinge on twitter you would think she'd launched the arab spring or something.

1 Feb 2013 - 18:58
andybarr's picture

ha ha ha @Ogilvy, spot on :-)

2 Feb 2013 - 01:17
ladyh78816's picture

@danhowarth71530 - completely agree! HMV have consistently resisted change, with their archaic website and refusal to move into the digital space. It seems like yesterday they lost much of what made them great - their passionate workforce who helped create and represent the brand.

@elle - make her point she did! I wonder if they're regretting not taking social media seriously now.

@ogilvy - clearly you're irate at the attention this young girl is receiving. I read her twitter feed with the link you provided and she doesn't sound self-important at all. If you look at the amount of journalists misreporting her and trying to ask her for an interview, I can see exactly why she'd feel the need to set the record straight. She could be talking to the media, doing interviews, taking advantage of all the press tweeting her and try to get "5 minutes of fame" like most young women do. However, she simply stated her point and said she would be leaving things be. She sounds to me like a very passionate and smart young lady, perhaps you're simply jealous of people supporting the underdog?

27 Feb 2013 - 10:29
Sookie Shuen's picture

Nice one @ladyh78816 ! I agree with you a 100% on this, I simply do admire Poppy Powers for her honesty and plain simple english "I wanted to show the power of Social Media to those who refused to be educated" (:


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