Guest post by Larry Alton.
Businesses and celebrities are supposed to be professional, so why are there constantly mistakes being made, sometimes by even the largest of companies? Well, the answer is because there’s a human behind those Facebook post and endless tweets.
From bad grammar to getting visibly frustrated and engaging in flame wars, there are lessons to be learned from the social media faux pas of others. If you were on the fence about hiring a professional social media manager, these might push you over the edge.
1. Justine Sacco, Africa and AIDS
It’s going to take a serious blunder to knock Sacco out of first place probably (hopefully) for many years to come. She was a well-known New York PR Rep, yet for some strange reason felt the urge to tweet (as she boarded a flight to South Africa) “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” Although she vehemently backtracked and apologized, she was fired and hasn’t really been heard from since.
2. Dr. Phil, teenage girls and sex
Poor Dr. Phil, this probably wasn’t really his fault since he was just trying to make do with Twitter’s short character limit. However, when you’re a middle aged man who tweets, “If a girl is drunk, is it OK to have sex with her? Reply yes or no @drphil #teenaccused.” To many, it sounded like he was rather interested in having sex with a drunk teenage girl and wanted to make sure society thought it was okay. Of course, he was really just trying to open a dialogue (and for the record, Dr. Phil has assured everyone it is not okay) and it backfired.
3. Epicurious and the Boston bombing
Trying to drum up social media attention by making use of one of the biggest tragedies on American soil in recent years is never in good taste, especially when a brand has nothing to do with Boston or marathons. The social media post, “In honor of Boston and New England, may we suggest: whole-grain cranberry scones!” Many thought this was insensitive at best.
4. NYU Lecturer, fat people and grad applicants
Geoffrey Miller is a lecturer at NYU who seems to have serious fat phobia. He wrote (out of the blue), “Dear obese PhD applicants: if you didn’t have the willpower to stop eating carbs, you won’t have the willpower to do a dissertation. #truth.” The good news for NYU is that he was a visiting professor. He later apologized, calling himself idiotic and with bad judgment.
5. Home depot, monkeys and racism
Perhaps it was a massive oversight and/or lack of knowledge of racist history and slurs, but Home Depot tweeted a photo of two black men and one man in a monkey mask drumming at a college game day event hosted by Home Depot. The post read, “Which drummer is not like the others?” Apparently somebody clued in the Twitter manager and it was quickly taken down, but screenshots had already been saved. In what was probably the best move, Home Depot chose to keep quiet on the matter.
There are many others, but these top the charts (for now). Here’s to better judgment in social media for the rest of 2014.
About the author: Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.