What does it mean to have an 'official' account on Twitter? Not much, it seems. Setting all politics and conspiracy theories aside, a recent debacle at Twitter reveals just how fragile the social network is and how little it takes to cause havoc.

According to multiple news reports and an official Twitter account covering policy, a rogue employee decided to deactivate President Trump's account. It stayed inactive for 11 minutes. We don't know much about the reasoning, but we can make an educated guess. The employee likely decided to cause pandemonium--since we know it was on his or her last day at work. Most news reports suggested that multiple employees have access to suspend and deactivate accounts, which is a bit surprising given the fact that Trump uses the account constantly and has almost 50 million followers at last count.

There's a lot you can infer from this problem--that the employee wanted to stifle the controversial head of state, revealing that it only takes one unhappy employee to take action on what should be a much more "official" account. You can also guess pretty easily that this was meant to show how easily it is to silence someone on social media.

Therein lies the problem at Twitter, and there are a few lessons here about how to deal with a rogue employee who is frustrated and unhappy at work.

First, about those official accounts. They are meaningless. Stamping the word official on anything doesn't really help if that many employees really do have access to the account, and there's no other recourse to prevent someone from going rogue in the first place. If the employees have access, isn't there some process that requires further verification and communication with the user--in this case, one with a rabid following?

These "mistakes" have happened way too often. It degrades the Twitter brand. Accounts have been suspended by accident or set on a 24-hour no access penalty period for no reason. It all seems arbitrary and poorly defined, let alone poorly managed.

In terms of the rogue employee, there's a similar lesson. Twitter obviously didn't have many protections in place, and there obviously wasn't much of a process involved as far as removing access for that employee as he or she neared the end of employment.

Most of us know how this works, if we have ever had to fire someone. There's the tension of firing someone in the first place, then there's the fallout that results. You have to disable accounts, especially on social media and on your network. A rogue employee can cause an incredible amount of damage. For Twitter, it appears to be more of a PR crisis. (Trump called out Twitter and suggested the company wanted to silence him somehow.) Even for an employee who gave notice and left on good terms--it's important to be vigilant. What do you really know about the employee leaving the firm? Is it really on good terms?

In my experience, it's better to tie up all loose ends. Your "official" social media accounts are the most vulnerable, and you should also think about your financials and any insider business knowledge. If anything, the rogue employee at Twitter is a good reminder about having a process in place when an employee does leave and the steps you should take.

Of course, you shouldn't get angry. If anything, point the finger back at your own management team or you as the boss. Without a process in place, a rogue employee who tries to do damage ends up causing a PR nightmare no matter what.

Published on: Nov 3, 2017