HMVFail – A Downsizing Gone Viral

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By Karen Masullo, Firestorm EVP

Please join Firestorm CEO Harry Rhulen and Karen Masullo a they look more closely at this event on their webinar on February 6th at 2 PM Eastern. REGISTER NOW!

When UK Entertainment retailer HMV made the tough decision to downsize a total of 190 employees yesterday, they did not anticipate that their brand would go viral.

“We’re tweeting live from HR where we’re all being fired! Exciting!!” read a message sent out over @hmvtweets at about 9:45 a.m.

HMVTweets1“There are over 60 of us being fired at once! Mass execution, of loyal employees who love the brand” read another.

As detailed in news websites from the National Post to Business Week, HMV company officials did not realize what was happening nearly as fast as the Internet did.

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

The offending tweets were only online for a few minutes, but not before they went viral. #hmvXFactorFiring showed up on Twitter’s trending topics list almost immediately, with users helpfully sending out screen grabs of the messages.

Since the story started spreading, Twitter user “Poppy Rose” has taken responsibility for the rogue tweets.

“Just to set something straight, I did not ‘hijack’ the hmv twitter account. I actually assumed sole responsibility of Twitter & Facebook over two years ago, as an intern,” she said on Twitter. “When asked (this afternoon), I gladly provided the password to head office.”

I beg to differ with the former employee.  They did indeed hijack (or Gazopt) the account.

  • How do you know when your company and brand have been gazopted?
  • What are the risks?
  • Why monitor social media risk?
  • What is social media risk monitoring?
  • How do you monitor social media risk?
  • Why is it more than just Google®?
  • How do you mitigate social media risk?

As we analyze an event, we assign a Firestorm Crisis Index Rating based upon data analysis via our monitoring approach and tools.

Via this data, the images below demonstrate the incredible power of viral messaging in only a ten minute period.

11:10 AM Eastern


11:20 AM Eastern


Overall, there have been thousands of Tweets, and hundreds of news articles, posts and other social activity.

The HMV employee who used the company’s official Twitter feed to expose details of mass firings has been inundated with job offers after she was sacked, it emerged today in an article from The Standard.


As we have said before, it is no longer enough to think of all media as solely another medium to market your business. In fact, the failure to monitor social media may mean the end of your organization.

Incorporating social media monitoring into your day-to-day practice is necessary to protect both your organization and its clients. And it is OWNED by EVERYONE.

In 2009, I wrote an article titled The Layoff Will be Twittered. As I stated then:
“Social media has created an environment in which previously minor leaks in your organization become flooded pipelines.
We also know that a botched layoff can damage a company’s brand. A study from 2001 between (then) Andersen and The Vault examined attitudes of 1,200 former employees. “We fully expected them to be unhappy,” stated a source in (then) Andersen’s human capital practice. “But what was stunning to us was the amount of documented carelessness that some of these people had been exposed to as part of the layoff practice.”

This was before the aggressive emergence of applications that further erase the confidentiality line – tools today are about transparency.
If you make a mistake today, millions of people may hear about it, not within days, but within minutes (if not seconds).”

This was almost five years ago, and businesses today are still making the same mistakes, taking the same risks, or denying that risk exists.

The Attributes of a Crisis or Disaster

  • Escalating Flow of Events
  • Insufficient  & Inaccurate Information
  • Intense Scrutiny
  • Loss of Command and Control
  • Surprise
  • How you respond can create a second crisis

Coupling a poorly planned, challenging restructuring project with instantaneous messaging to the WORLD, over which you have little or no control is a recipe for disaster.
Handled improperly, communications will make a challenging restructuring project worse, and can damage an organization’s reputation and its bottom line. Each layoff is unique, and the communications plan associated with it will, and should, vary. What remains constant is the importance of developing and implementing a sound plan.

Please join Firestorm CEO Harry Rhulen and me as we look more closely at this event on our webinar on February 6th at 2 PM Eastern. REGISTER NOW!

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