Social media is how we live today. We find recommendations for restaurants and babysitters, we find jobs and dates, we rant about poor customer service and annoying coworkers, but should we also use social media to try and get paid? Is social media a good tool for collecting on unpaid invoices?
Well-meaning friends and colleagues often advise freelancers and others who are frustrated by overdue invoices to consider shaming those who owe them money on social media. Occasionally, this works. In Spring 2017, several writers who were owed money by Ebony magazine took to Twitter with an organized hashtag campaign, #Ebonyowes. A few writers saw success with this method, but by September 2017, many more, who still had not been paid, filed a lawsuit.
There was some success for the writers because Ebony had an interest in protecting its brand image, and not paying its writers hurt that image both with other potential employees and with readers. There were also enough writers who banded together to make the problem obvious to those outside of the industry. But more often than not this tactic is not only ineffective, it can actually damage your chances of getting paid, or expose you to claims that you are illegally interfering with a business or committing libel. Social media wars also have a tendency to spiral out of control in unusual ways. Anytime you attack a brand, company, or person on social media, you run the risk of backlash.
What should you do instead of going to social media?
The first step is obviously to make sure you have contacted the company. Emails and phone calls serve separate purposes when pursuing money owed, and you should use both. Emails create a paper trail, but phone calls are often more effective. In both cases, make sure you understand best practices for communication before reaching out. If you are still working with the client, stop immediately. Explain that you cannot continue to work on projects without being paid.
If attempts to contact the client are not successful, it’s time to consider hiring a collection agency. When collecting on debt, time is of the essence. Once a receivable is three months past due, there is only a 74% chance it can be collected. After one year, the chances are reduced to 27%. It is important not to waste time with social media campaigns that are unlikely to succeed.
At The Kaplan Group we hope you never have to decide whether or not to Tweet about unpaid invoices, but if you do, please make sure to contact us first.