Vodafone PR crisis over social media rants

by Astrid Wilson02 Aug 2012

In a matter of days, unchecked Twitter rants have been the undoing of several Olympic athletes, and now a bitter Vodafone staff member has lead a social media attack on customers the embattled telco cannot afford to lose.

A Sydney Vodafone store employee lit up the twitter-waves yesterday labelling customers “mentally retarded” and saying he wanted to “pimp-slap” the next customer who spoke to him – all the while having listed himself as a Vodafone ambassador and social media expert on his LinkedIn profile.

The employee was listed as a retail store employee and also as part of the “Talking New Technology Ambassadors” program, for which he wrote articles and reviews for Vodafone's blog. However, he had awarded himself the title of ‘social media expert’ and the telco was yesterday at pains to point out that the title was not endorsed by the company.

Social media expert Tiphereth Gloria, from VML Australia, told the Sydney Morning Herald that putting aside Vodafone's internal and external social media policies, it may be time for HR to carry out ‘spot checks’ on employees’ personal social media channels when they have prominent online profiles identifying themselves as members of an organisation.

Anthony Mason, from social media monitoring firm SR7, also commented to the Herald that this incident would damage the reputation of Vodafone in the eyes of consumers, business clients and employees. “Incidents such as these should further crystallise the high potential for social media risk, particularly stemming from employee activity, to damage corporate brands,” he said. “This risk is not limited to brand damage either; employees are the key source of corporate information leakage on social media platforms.”

A Vodafone spokesman said the telco was “disappointed” by the views expressed by the employee and that it did not reflect those of the company. Following the conduct of the employee, the company suspended the staffer pending a full investigation. The telco said the comments “clearly contravene Vodafone social media policy and guidelines for acceptable conduct by employees”.


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  • by Walter Adamson 8/08/2012 7:04:28 AM

    Given that Vodafone had a social media policy in place and undoubtedly conducted training, given their previous social media gaffs, then the question to ask is what went wrong here?

    From our perspective we suspect that it is a case of point solutions being applied to social media rather than a holistic governance approach. With point solutions there are always gaps, whereas a holistic approach aligned with business strategy reduces the risk. We examined this issue in the Vodafone case here http://wp.me/p1VXmY-1wk

    Walter @adamson

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