Luke Dringoli
Luke Dringoli
Editor, Social Networks

Best Buy vs. Employee: the YouTube Scuffle Continues

Ah, satire in the age of instant communication. One big box brand doesn’t quite get the joke.

As good as social media’s been for Best Buy (see: @Twelpforce, a continued success), they’re fast finding out how real things can get when their internal policies don’t line up with their ostensibly progressive, tech-conscious reputation. We’re talking about an employee of theirs, who since being pressured into quitting his job over a couple measly, unbranded YouTube videos, has hit back with a new video roasting the retailer in a similarly anonymous fashion. If consumers can control brands these days, then employees can bring them to their knees.

Brian Maupin, the now-former Best Buy employee in question made a number of mostly harmless tech-related YouTube videos during his tenure—all credited to Tiny Watch Productions. “iPhone4 vs. HTC Evo,” the most popular of his video rants, is a profanity-laden clip about customers hopelessly biased towards Apple’s smartphone. It’s racked up nearly 6 million views. And it, mind you, contains no trace of Best Buy or his employment at one of their stores. Here, just watch (kids: earmuffs):

In a move that’s became a a PR disaster, Best Buy traced his name to the account and more or less fired him. Bad move on their part. They should have found a way to capitalize on the content and leveraged their employee’s newfound audience. Or just kept quiet. Instead, they inspired Maupin to produce this:

Does this mean employees should consider themselves constantly “on the clock,” as far as social media is concerned? Of course not. Consider this a case study on the new age of highly advanced, hyper-connected employees. TweetFired shows that while Best Buy has a handle on new media, they’re too quick to overreact to potentially troublesome internal-turned-external social media problems. Being overly cautious (read: fascist) can certainly have its consequences. In this horizontal media landscape, intolerant, ham-fisted rule like this brings about it’s own destruction.

In the end, though, how popular will Brian’s video revenge really be? (Over the course of just seven days, it has accumulated 54,000 plays.) Is this a palpable blow to the store’s reputation? What should Best Buy do to save face?

  • Jon

    This is brilliant. I attended the 140 Conference where the Twelpforce had their own panel session and fielded questions. The founder, John Berneir, stressed that it was completely optional and only expected during work hours, but often employees were so passionate about helping that they’d do it on their own time. Him and his team said all the politically correct things about social media customer support via Twitter, so I’m surprised that they’d react this way in firing (more or less) Brian Maupin.

    We’re certainly getting to an age where our off-the-clock actions are under more and more scrutiny, while the younger generations do little to protect their privacy and don’t fear the possible repercussions (whether fair or not). I’m not saying Brian falls into this category, because I don’t think this was something he shouldn’t have done, especially since he never mentioned the brand nor identified himself. It would be different if he sat in front of his webcam, said his name, and completely blasted the iPhone. Regardless, it’s all a gray area that’s still being defined.

    - Jon

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