Social Media account Takeovers

Guidelines to ensure a safe experience

A women student from my team did an Instagram takeover last week and shared an insight into her working day as a student in my team. Of course, there were dudes who had to send her inappropriate comments. While she had done Instagram takeovers previously on other accounts, they all were positive, but, no surprise, these accounts are focusing on inspiring girls and women about a career in tech, so the audience on those accounts is much different than on a tech companies social media account. It's my fault that I didn't foresee this and that she was exposed to inappropriate comments that made her feel uncomfortable. To not repeat the same mistake twice, I wrote down my recommendations for running Social Media account Takeovers in a way that ensures a safe experience for the employee below.

Individuals as company advocates

Social Media account Takeovers are a gray area because here the individual employee becomes part of a corporate communication strategy and the company on the one hand is much more resilient to negative experiences compared to the individual. Therefore it is the responsibility of the company to ensure that the employee is protected against negative experiences as much as possible.

This document provides a code of conduct for these account Takeovers in order to enable the employee, the social media team, and the followers to have meaningful and positive interactions during and after a Takeover.

What are Account Takeovers?

So called “Account Takeovers” are a way for companies to give a more personal look into the day to day work at the organization. An employee is responsible for posting updates on the social media account for a day. This is an effective tool for companies to engage with a diverse audience and provide content that is more natural to the audience and not the usual streamlined marketing content.

For employees this provides the opportunity to provide an in-depth insight into their daily work which often can be very obscure and therefore attract people to apply for open jobs or engage with the specific product the employee is working with in order to provide more detailed feedback.

In both cases the point is to put an individual employee in the center of the attention during the takeover. This however opens them up to receive unwanted attention in the form of inappropriate or harassing questions and personal messages, especially when it’s people from under-indexed groups that are being put in the spotlight.

The employee might not be experienced in ways to protect themselves against these comments or—because they are representing the company—may be inclined to interact with harassers to keep “good appearances” because “the customer is always right”.

For the social media team

  1. Assume that the employee doing the takeover has no or very limited experience handling social media interactions on an account with a large number of followers. Therefore you must ensure that they are protected against unwanted, inappropriate or harassing comments or questions.
  2. Share a Code of Conduct before the Takeover:
    “In order to have a wonderful experience together, please keep your questions, comments and interactions professional. Do not comment or ask about personal appearances, relationship status or similar private details. This is not a dating site.”
  3. Moderate all interactions: do not let the employee receive messages unfiltered by giving them direct access to the social media account. Have an experienced social media manager screen all questions and forward only appropriate ones via the company's chat app. For example on Instagram, the employee then can use their Instagram app to provide the story via a private message to the company account.
  4. If a users posts an inappropriate question, reprimand them immediately with a clear message:
    “Hei, your comment is inappropriate and hurtful and adds to making tech a place that is exclusive and hostile. We will not answer these kinds of questions. Stop it.”
  5. If they repeat their inappropriate actions, block them without further comment.
  6. Make sure the employee does not share their private Instagram account details. Do not ask the employee to do so.

For the person doing the Takeover

It is fantastic that you have decided to lend your face and personality to your organization. It is a gift and its value cannot be measured monetarily. Here are few rules to help you make this an amazing experience:

  1. You do not need to answer questions that you are not comfortable with. If some questions make you comfortable please let the social media team know so they can filter out these types of questions.
  2. Do not share your personal social media account unless you personally want to. Your employer’s social media team will not ask you to do so. If you do nevertheless, feel free to ignore and block unwanted users without explanation. This is your personal space. You do not owe these users anything.
  3. Please be aware that all content you provide will end up on the internet beyond the control of your organization. Share only what you are comfortable with being accessible to a wide audience forever.

For the audience

As a participant you too need to be involved in making takeovers a fun experience for everyone. Ask questions about the business, or the workday of the employee. Just see this as an opportunity to get to know an interesting company and a future colleague a bit better. Simply do not try to get in their pants. Social Media accounts of companies are not a dating platform, and any unwanted attention without consent is inappropriate here digitally, as it is at the workplace.