Managing Social Media Disasters: What to do when employees go off the digital deep end

February 29, 2012

Sarah Elaine Eaton, speaker, presenter, keynote, technology, social media, Calgary, Canada, educator, education, professional developmentSocial media can be an organization’s worst nightmare. What do you do when employees badmouth their boss on Facebook? Or Tweet sensitive company information? These are complex situations with no easy answers. But there are practical strategies you can use to mitigate the effects of employee’s inappropriate behaviour on social networks and more importantly, prevent disasters before they happen.

It only takes one person to create a social media disaster for an organization. When that happens, the situation becomes complex and messy very quickly. You will leave this session with practical ideas that you can implement to control social media damage and prevent your employees from going off the digital deep end. Here are 10 tips to help:

Preventing a social media disaster

#1 – Develop an organizational social media policy

Putting together a social media policy for your organization is a critical first step in ensuring that people understand what is expected of them and why.

#2 – Provide training to your employees and managers

Policies mean nothing if people do not understand how to follow them and why they are important. Offer organizational lunch and learns, webinars and other short, quick training for your employees.

Social media training should not be one-way. It should not involve a trainer standing at the front of the room delivering content or telling employees what the social media rules are as part of compliance training. The most effective social media training involves conversations, dialogue and the participants exchanging ideas and input.

#3 – Establish disciplinary protocols before you need to use them

Most large organizations have standards and disciplinary procedures in place for workplace behavior. In an ideal world, discipline is unnecessary. But let’s face it, sometimes, people do stupid things. Take for example, the Domino’s Pizza employees who thought it would be funny to put snot-covered cheese on the sandwiches they were preparing. Not only did they sell the snotty food to customers, they video-taped their antics and posted their video to YouTube.

In that case, the employees were fired and charged by the local police with delivering prohibited foods to the public. What would you do if this happened at your organization?

Organizational response to a social media disaster

#4 – Respond quickly

A social media disaster is much like other kinds of organizational crises in that it requires an immediate response. You need to respond within 24 hours.

#5 – Apologize

Gone are the days when an organization can try to cover up a disaster. In today’s world, news travels fast. Your customers, clients, investors and funders may know about a situation before you do. If the organization has screwed up, the first step to recovering your reputation is to acknowledge the screw up and say you are sorry. Anything else just makes the situation worse.

#6 – Ditch the “corporate speak”

In addition to the apology, you need to sound genuine. A speech prepared for the TV cameras that is full of multi-syllabic words and corporate jargon is not as effective as a sincere, heart-felt apology, using plain and simple language. In a crisis situation, we tend to use shorter, simpler language. The stilted “corporate speak” of the late 20th century creates an immediate negative visceral reaction among people who hear it today. Be real. Be straight up. Be sincere. Nothing else counts.

Deal with the offender

#7 – Immediate response

In addition to a response from the entire organization, you need to deal with the offender(s) immediately. If nothing else, contact the person and let them know that their behavior has been unacceptable. Make an immediate, polite and straightforward “cease and desist” request. If nothing else say, “I don’t know how we’re going to deal with this. For now, I’m asking you to promise me that you won’t post anything else about this on social media. Would you do that for me, please?”

#8 – Insist on accountability

This is not an easy situation to deal with. An immediate reaction from a manager might be to simply fire the person. Given the circumstances, that may be warranted or it may be an over-reaction. If you decide that the offense does not warrant firing, the offender still needs to account for his or her actions. Asking “Why did you do it?” may help you understand, but it does not really move you towards a solution.

A productive conversation might include questions like: “What would you do if you were me?”, “What will it take to make this situation right?” or even “How do we make this right again?” You may not get the answers you want, but you will gain valuable insight that will help you determine your next steps.

Make it right

#9 – Affirm your commitment to your customers or clients

What makes a social media disaster so terrible is that an employee can go rogue in a matter of seconds… and customers or clients can find out before management does. That means your customers form their own opinions and make decisions based on the information that they have in a given moment, not necessarily based on what is true.

Organizations that serve customers or clients do not exist without them. They are the reason you do what you do. So, taking care of them is top priority. Make your response more about them, than about punishing an offender. A simple statement such as, “This isn’t how we treat our customers. We are going to do whatever it takes to earn your trust back” can be very effective. (Remember to ditch the corporate speak and be sincere).

#10 – Use social media as an engagement tool

This is not the time to silence your fans or supporters who are momentarily angry and express their feelings on your organizational Facebook page. Instead, engage your customers in conversations and dialogue. Re-iterate your apology (but not ad infinitum) and ask them what they would do to make it better. Re-direct the conversation in a positive way that is about helping you re-build the loyalty you may have lost.

These are just a few tips to help you in a complex situation. The reality is that a social media disaster can affect an organization for a long time after it has happened. Using the incident as an opportunity to learn more about your customers, what they want and what matters to them is an effective way to ensure an effective response and a long-term solution to help you re-built your reputation.

Want to get your employees, managers and leaders trained in how to manage social media disasters? Learn how in one of these programs, all of which are offered as live training and e-learning programs:

  • a one-hour webinar
  • a half-day workshop
  • a full-day workshop
Here’s what the curriculum looks like:
View this document on Scribd

Join us on February 29, 2012 at noon Mountain time for a one-hour webinar offered by Chinook Learning on this content. You’ll get the condensed version of the “how to” steps in 55 minutes.

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Alberta Catholics and homeschoolers may have to teach kids being gay is not a sin

February 28, 2012

A new bill before the Alberta legislature could require home schoolers and faith-based schools to teach that being gay isn’t a sin and that diverse lifestyles are not a bad thing. The Alberta’s proposed Education Act states that “all courses or programs of study offered and instructional materials used in a school must reflect the diverse nature and heritage of society in Alberta, promote understanding and respect for others and honour and respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Alberta Human Rights Act.”

An article from the Home School Legal Defence Association (HSLDA) of Canada calls the bill “attempt by a government to control what families teach in the area of values and beliefs in their own home”. The underlying message is that Big Brother is watching… and He won’t tolerate you teaching your kids that homosexuality is a sin. The HSLDA urges home schooling parents to contact the Minister of Education to ask that the law be amended.

As someone who has taught diversity programs and believes in the inherent worth of all persons, regardless of their orientation, I admit that I was surprised to read about the resistance to the new bill. I confess a certain naiveté around such matters. It never really occurred to me that parents may want to home school children so that they could teach them that being gay was a sin, but I suppose that could happen.

What do you think? Should faith-based schools and homeschoolers be able to teach the values that they believe in, even if they don’t reflect what the government requires?


2012 Bill 2, Alberta Legislative Assembly

Alberta bill may make it illegal to teach that homosexual acts are sinful“, Catholic World News

Homeschooling families can’t teach homosexual acts sinful in class says Alberta gvmt“, by Patrick Craine, Lifesite News

“Canadian Province Imposing “Diversity Training” on Homeschools”, Home School Legal Defence Association (HSLDA) of Canada


Share this post: Alberta Catholics and homeschoolers may have to teach kids being gay is not a sin

Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

10 Characteristics of Informal Learning

February 28, 2012

Before you ever go to school or take part in a Mom-and-tot program, informal learning starts the day you are born and continues on until the day you die. Here are the characteristics of informal learning:

1. Informal learning is never organized.

There are no set formulas or guidelines. Examples of informal learning include activities such as teaching your child the alphabet, or how to brush his or her teeth. There is no prescriptive program of study for this.

2. Informal learners are often highly motivated to learn.

Unlike the formal learning environment of school, informal learners are often eager and attentive. A teenager showing a friend how to find an “Easter egg” in a video game is an example of informal learning. The gamer really wants to find out how to achieve his goal, so he embarks on a journey to figure out how. His friend becomes his teacher.

3. Informal learning is often spontaneous.

Learning happens anywhere, any time. The learner is inspired to learn because of an immediate desire to know how to do something or understand a topic. Or an informal “teacher” sees an opportunity to share their knowledge or wisdom with someone else. For example, we were recently standing in line at the airport waiting to go through security. There was a family in front of us. The father, who was holding the hand of his young son, who was about seven or eight, used the posters on the wall of the security area to teach the boy to read new words. The boy sounded out the words and they talked about the content of the poster. This not only helped to pass the time during a long wait, it was a great example of spontaneous informal learning.

4. There is no formal curriculum.

There is no program of study or prescriptive methods. Whatever methods used are the one that the person teaching knows how to teach… often based on their own experience.

5. The “teacher” is someone who cares – and who has more experience than the learner.

Even the word “teacher” here is a bit of a misnomer because professional teachers all have credentials, certificates or a teaching license. In the informal learning context, those leading the learning are likely to be emotionally close to the person who is learning, such as a mother, father, grandparent or other caregiver. An adult child teaching an older parent how to use new technology is an example.

6. The world is your classroom

It is a myth that learning happens in a school or in a classroom. With informal learning, there is no classroom. Your home, the neighborhood park, the community and the world are the classroom.

7. Informal learning is difficult to quantify.

There are no exams and informal learning is difficult to quantify.

8. Often dismissed by academics and skeptics as being worthless.

Informal learning is often overlooked and not regarded as particularly valid learning. Some researchers and academics (though not all of us!) have the opinion that informal learning is less valuable than formal, prescriptive learning (due, in part, to the fact that it is difficult to quantify… and they believe that if it can not be quantified, it has no value).

Sarah Elaine Eaton education educator presenter keynote researcher Canada Alberta informal learning9. Essential to a child’s early development.

Learning your mother tongue is an excellent example of informal learning. Imagine if a child were not exposed to any language for the first 5 years. How difficult would that child’s development become? It is an experiment that, as far as I know, has never been done. It would be considered too risky and unethical. Everything a young child learns at home is informal learning, from how to brush their teeth to how to say the alphabet to good manners. Without informal learning, we would never be able to cope in a formal learning environment.

10. Essential to an adult’s lifelong learning.

Informal learning is a lifelong process. It does not end when a child enters school and the formal system “takes over”. On the contrary, children continue to learn at home. As we get older, we learn from our friends. As we enter the workforce, we learn from our co-workers. Into retirement, we still learn from friends and also from those younger than us. An adult learning to read and write from a volunteer literacy tutor is one example. A retired office worker learning from her grandson how to use an iPad is another example.

Informal learning is what keeps us vibrant, mentally active and interested in the world around us, as well as our own development. Just because informal learning can not be quantified easily does not mean that it is not worthwhile – or even essential to our development and growth as human beings.

Related posts:

Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning (Infographic)

New Trends in Education: Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning – Implications for Evaluation and Assessment

Formal, non-formal and informal learning: The case of literacy and language learning in Canada

Formal, non-formal and informal education: What Are the Differences?

Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning: A podcast

Breathtaking Impact of Volunteers’ Contribution to Non-formal and Informal Literacy Education in Alberta

Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning in the Sciences


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

French pre-schoolers learn literacy skills with Twitter

February 21, 2012

A new project in France has captured international attention. A kindergarten class in Talence, a town near Bordeaux in southwest France is using Twitter to build literacy and language skills. The Vancouver Sun reports:

“The children’s teacher came up with the idea as a way to teach them to recognize the alphabet in different formats – cursive, keyboard, screen – and to learn to transition from the oral to written word.

Each day the process is the same: the children propose topics, discuss them under the teacher’s guidance and vote on a winner.”

The children’s teacher, , Philippe Guillem, says

… that the goal was not just to teach the children but to educate the parents as well.

“They have to consider how this will play out when their children are 12 years old and using the tools of the future.”

The children use a group address:!/camusmat04

The Tweets are protected, which means that you need to send a request to follow them. If you are approved, you will be able to see the Tweets.

This is a stellar example of how to engage children with 21st century technology for learning purposes. I hope we see more innovative uses of technology and social media to get today’s children engaged in learning.

Read the original article.


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Skype for Literacy and Language Learning: “How To” Tips and Best Practices for Teachers

February 21, 2012

Sarah Eaton, literacy, languages, language, ESL, EAL, keynote, speaker, presenter, Canada, Alberta, English, educationAfter doing a number of workshops and research on how to use Skype for literacy and international languages, I’ve put together a free, downloadable guide for teachers and tutors.

Here’s what is in the guide:

  • Introduction
    • Technical requirements
    • Thinking about a computer-to-computer call
    • Skype versus other technologies
    • Skype-enabled handsets
  • Set up your Skype account
  • Add Contacts
  • Make a Skype call
  • Advanced features
    • Conference calls
    • Instant messaging or chat
    • File sharing
    • Screen Sharing
  • Ideas on how you can use Skype
    • Personal use
    • Organizational use
    • Marketing your programs
    • Teaching
    • Tutoring
  • Conclusions
  • Bibliography (includes 22 citations)

Check out the guide and download it from Scribd:

View this document on Scribd


Share or Tweet this post: Skype for Literacy and Language Learning: “How To” Tips and Best Practices for Teachers

Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

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