With the advent of social media has come a wave of embarrassing and regretful Facebook posts, tweets and more from celebrities, companies, non-profits and public officials. Most often, the fallout is like witnessing a car crash or train derailment for millions of readers and/or viewers.
Most recently, the public was witness to former Congressman Anthony Weiner’s (D-N.Y.) exploits on Facebook and Twitter (see image left by ABC News). He admitted to “several inappropriate” electronic relationships with women and he publicly lied about a photo of himself sent over Twitter to a college student. Not to be outdone, his former Congressional colleague Chris Lee (R-N.Y.), e-mailed a shirtless picture of himself to a woman he met through Craigslist. While not social media-related, the outcome was still the same. Both Congressional leaders were forced to resign amid scandal and shame.
Elected leaders are not the only ones prone to social media mishaps; celebrities contribute their share of memorable blunders. Longtime NBC weatherman Al Roker landed in a mess when he took pictures of potential jurors “on his iPhone and — in violation of court rules — posted them to his Twitter page.” What about comedian Gilbert Gottfried, the former voice of the AFLAC duck, and his Japan jokes – via Twitter – following the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the country and killed thousands? His poorly timed tweets cost him a job and sparked outrage at his level of insensitivity. And finally, celebrity blogger Perez Hilton stepped into trouble when he posted an unflattering wardrobe shot of Miley Cyrus and then commented on her promiscuous behavior of late. As Joyce Eng of TV Guide reported, “Unlike most celebs, Hilton wasn’t remorseful, saying he would do it again (he did, tweeting another photo a week later). But the racy shot cost him an advertiser in ABC and had him possibly facing child pornography charges since Cyrus was underage then.”
Unfortunately, large companies and non-profits are not immune from social media issues either. Companies such as Kenneth Cole, Domino’s and Red Cross have recently experienced major backlash from inappropriate social media posts. Chrysler, through a contracted social media agency, posted an obscene tweet to the automaker’s Twitter page. Chrysler apologized saying the employee responsible for the tweet had been fired. According to the company, the tweet was meant to appear on the employee’s personal Twitter account, rather than on Chrysler’s.
Now understand, I am not making light of these social media disasters; I just wanted to point out that in this fluid, digital age that everyone is watching and listening more than ever. Brands and reputations are at stake with nearly every post, tweet, etc., and to recover (if ever) from one of these missteps could be very costly and time consuming – just ask the aforementioned politicians, celebrities and companies.