Yesterday when I saw the “tweet heard ’round the world”(<–read in a big deep echoing voice)
I reacted like so many others, thinking “Man look at the size of that pile you just stepped in”. Yeah it was a truly dumb thing to say, and I’m not going beat that dead horse, he apologized and I am sure he is, and will be sorry for a while for having said that. Let’s face it, if you have not said something and offended someone at one point or another in your life, your not pushing the limits of yourself…it happens.
What I find fascinating is the storm of slams on Kenneth Cole, and I can only imagine that if we were all together in a crowd, the poor man would be nailed on a cross by now or stoned to death. The question this brings to my mind as one who studies social media, is; what percentage of the people are reacting to what he said, which I admit I did, and what percentage are jumping in with a “Yeah, what they said” mob mentality reaction. I think there is a lot of self promotion going on now with the “Yeah, count me in on that” mentality. Just take a look at Google’s Realtime
With the two graphs above, notice the pattern of activity, first it took a while for the faux pas to get noticed, then you see a reaction bell curve, then almost a day later there is a second bell curve. I can only speculate, but this looks like a mob reaction.
There are many lessons for those “playing” with social media to be gathered from this incident, first and foremost is that there is no such thing as muttering that off color joke that you might whisper to friends under your breath in a bar, on Twitter everyone hears everything. There is no “whoops” button. Sure people make mistakes, “to Err is human” the question is how do you reduce your risk to be the next Kenneth Cole. As a professional speaker, I learned certain rules, like always turn the wireless lavalier mic off when you run to the john.
As TheBrandBuilder, Olivier Blanchard says, “Kenneth Cole shows every brand what not to do on Twitter” . So the question is what do you do, should you let someone run your social media accounts, or have access to them, who does not think about the ramifications of every word put out on company brand accounts. Does your company have policies in place that dictate how interaction is handled? Sure consumers love hearing from “The Man” himself, but in this instance we see the risk of that kind of intimate relationship.
Hire a professional, someone who studies and immerses themselves in social media, not just online but in the community and everything they do. We’ve learned at Head of Lettuce Media that it is important to study and practice online, but it is also important to participate in the community as a whole, get out and talk to people, argue, debate and refine the policies we hold to be “laws of social media”. If Kenneth Cole was using a company like ours, we would have had many conversations about context and framing of statements, not to mention staying away from humor at others expense, no matter how big or small that group may be. Professional speakers know that self defacing humor is the safest, and usually most appreciated. If your going to joke about someone, joke about yourself, Lord knows I do, after all just look at the name of my company.