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September 5, 2012

There’s an element to the Olympic Games (and almost every other sport for that matter) that should catch the eye of every business and it has nothing to do with being stronger, faster or athletic at all. It’s about communication.

For example: the Games had barely begun when we saw the global power of social networking, sadly through those who communicate before they think. Right at the start of the games two athletes, one in track and one in soccer, were thrown off their teams for comments posted on Twitter that contained racial slurs.  There have been countless other examples of athletes posting comments they later regretted or tried to withdraw. So why does this matter to you?

The truth is that social media gives everyone a megaphone to the world and most people aren’t thinking about that power. Businesses need to think about this because a careless comment by an associate can reflect badly on your entire store, product or company. It’s a modern problem that requires modern thinking.

Executives need to understand that you cannot possibly police everything your employees say on social media. Even police states (Syria, Libya and Tunisia come to mind) were and are unable to control what is said on Facebook and Twitter. So the challenge for retailers is to be smarter about this.

Find an opportunity to talk with your staff about the power of social commentary and the responsibility each associate has to their job. Remind them that comments about fellow associates, managers and customers live on for a long time in the social web. What’s more, poorly thought out comments could lead to anything from strained relations to dismissal.  Your associates are the face of your company and today that presence extends to what they say on the social web.

It’s not an easy topic and it’s certainly one we are all learning at the same time. So use an easy excuse, like the problems at the Olympic Games, to spread a lesson. It may pay off for a long time to come.

Michael Sansolo

Research Director

Coca‑Cola Retailing Research Council of North America