Corporate Social Media Horror Stories

By Melissa Grindel

Professionalism in the financial industry goes beyond how you dress, how you treat customers and co-workers, and how well you remain legally compliant. As the line blurs between a company’s official online footprint and the personal presence its employees maintain on social media, the need to keep on top of social media compliance increases.

Unfortunately, what your employees do and say on social media can often be linked back to and negatively affect your company. Here are three “horror” stories that illustrate how things can go wrong if social media monitoring isn’t properly maintained in the financial industry.

Racist Remarks by Employees Call into Question Compliance with Fair Lending Laws

When a financial company’s employee makes racist remarks on social media, people wonder if the institution is racist or just hires racist employees. Neither is good for the company’s reputation.

In 2016, Christine McMullen Lindgren, a personal banker at Bank of America, posted on her Facebook account a diatribe about her hatred of black people. It took only three minutes for someone to connect her to Bank of America and from there the story went viral.

She was fired, however not until after hundreds of people threatened to close their accounts. This horror story truly outlines the importance of monitoring employee accounts for instances of inappropriate language and stresses the necessity for separation between personal employee profiles and business account pages.

The Rise of the Social Media Phishing Scam

Although phishing scams are not new, they are using new techniques that leverage messaging apps and social media. One technique they use is to place a fake advertisement on Facebook that offers attractive prizes from a local bank. When someone clicks on the ad, they are sent to a fake bank website where they are prompted to provide their Internet banking details and one-time passwords.

According to police records, of all scam types, banking-related phishing scams had the fourth-highest number of reported cases in the first six months of 2020. The best way you can protect your customers from this type of scam is to educate them. Monitoring social media and the Internet in general for mentions of your company’s name might also help, but there is no guarantee these scams will show up in your monitoring results before the scammers move on to their next scam.

Training Exercise Gone Wrong

In 2015, after an HSBC training exercise in Birmingham, a group of HSBC bankers uploaded to Instagram a video of themselves carrying out a mock Islamic State-style execution. Already in poor taste, this was less than a year after footage of British aid worker Alan Henning being executed by Islamic State militants was posted online.

The video was later deleted, but not until after The Sun broke the story. HSBC attempted to resolve the issue by firing the employees, but the event caused a slew of issues, including a racism allegation and lawsuit from a former Turkish and Muslim employee three months later as well as poor PR for the company for years to come.

Don’t Be Another Social Media Horror Story

You don’t have to become another story in the news, nor reap the negative effects of an errant social medial post. There are steps you can take to avoid regulatory and other violations committed innocently – or not – through social media.

  1. Train your employees on what they can and cannot do on social media. Whether they like it or not, they represent your company even on their personal accounts.
  2. Implement robust social media monitoring that can catch problems before they become a news story. You’ll want to monitor for fraudulent accounts made under your company’s name, as well as the social media postings of your employees for potential violations of industry regulations or company policies.
  3. Have clear policies and protocols in place to deal with infractions – and make sure your employees understand them. Have employees participate in a social media training program and have them sign an agreement acknowledging that they are aware of the company policy.
With the right precautions in place, you can be confident about using social media to promote your business and brand without worrying about being another scary story spreading virally across the Internet.