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One Tweet to a Life in Hell – The Justine Sacco Affair

Some people are scared to use social media. It seems too “Wild Wild West” to them. Some of those people are fearful of learning how to do it, some are scared to make a big mistake, and some wish for a simpler time when the definition of “friend” was narrower and “in the flesh.”

As an extrovert, I’ve found my stride in life, so to speak, on social media. The last six years have found me starting a tee company, making many life-long friends, and changing careers. I enjoy expressing myself, learning, having discussions, and entertaining myself on a daily basis.

Someday, I am bound to make a big mistake. I will offend the world at large with an inappropriate photo or tweet. I don’t think this will ever happen, but I should never say “never.” If or when it happens, I hope to have friends coming to my defense. I hope it’s something I can recover from. I hope my family doesn’t bear the brunt. Mostly, I really, really hope it never happens.

I don’t mean to say our lives are not in our control; I firmly believe we are in control of our destiny.

So what happened to Justine Sacco? A PR pro for IAC, she presented the social media community its latest scandal with her insensitive tweet about Africa. While on a plane to said continent, the tweet was blowing up worldwide and she likely knew nothing of it until she landed. Upon disembarking, if her phone was able to grab a cell tower or some wifi, she was undoubtedly slammed with tweets, emails, texts, voicemails, Facebook messages and more. That must have been a bit jarring for her. IAC quickly sacked her.

What should we make of this affair? I always like to dial down to the foundation, to the simplest and most elementary lesson to be learned. This is to say, “What should we do FIRST?” In this case, it’s “BE NICE.” Sorry to keep beating this dead horse, but that’s the first thing we all need to know.

Guys, Justine’s situation is a complicated issue. In reading the countless articles on the affair, I’ve seen the right wing attack the left wing. I’ve seen people make this an age issue, a gender issue, an unemployment issue (how can SHE have a job while I’m unemployed), a race issue, a white guilt issue, and more. You name it; everyone has an angle on this, a prism through which they judge her.

However, if Justine had just remembered rule number one – be nice to others – this would have never happened to her. So what seems complicated is actually quite simple. Be nice!

Through the millennia, since the very advent of the spoken word, we humans have harbored thoughts that we have chosen not to verbally articulate. Justine’s AIDS tweet is the latest lesson on why that’s the case. As I state in the interview I recently did with Mark Reardon on KMOX, most of us have told an offensive joke or two. Some of us have been to comedy clubs and laughed at a comedian saying horrible things. But NO, you can’t say these things on social media. Similarly, you wouldn’t say these things aloud in a crowded coffee shop, on a job interview, on a first date, or at the office water cooler. In those places, in those circumstances, you have to practice restraint.

So that means no off-color jokes about AIDS. No Hitler jokes, no Jewish jokes, no special needs jokes, none of that. You think it’s funny? That’s great – keep it to yourself. You don’t want to offend an entire continent with one tweet!

First and foremost, think of others instead of yourself. Had Justine done that, she might have considered the 1 million Americans living with HIV, or the 30 million worldwide. Let me stake out some brave territory and say AIDS is terrible. Don’t joke about it! Be nice to others.

Be nice!

To listen to my interview with Mark Reardon, HIT PLAY on the second sound file down

Other takes:

1. AdWeek initially reports on the situation.

2. Here are 16 tweets she might now wish to take back. No. 16 is way out there, in my humble opinion.

3. Here’s a robust discussion on my Facebook page about Justine and how long (if at all) we should heap scorn on her.

4. If you read nothing else on this issue, read Roxane Gay’s take on it.

5. Some additional sympathy for Justine’s plight.

6. A friend defends her, saying she’s guilty of not being good at Twitter.

7. The Twitter lynch mob.

The Trick to Social Media Success?

When we all get our neural implants installed, thereby relegating Google Glass to the trash heap (nevermind our long-deceased iPhones), the key to our success will not be mastering the technology. Nothing will be more determining and necessary than depositing the right thoughts into the device.

Social media is no different. Don’t master the bat; it’s just a piece of wood. Master your preparation, your knowledge of the pitches thrown, and your swing.

Larry Conners and His Facebook Problem

I’ll spare you the details, as they’re available here, here, here, here, here and here. The summary is that local St. Louis TV anchor Larry Conners, who had been on the air for 34 years, was fired after alleging on his work Facebook page that a 2012 interview he did with President Obama drew the ire of the IRS. As the IRS is currently in some hot water for allegedly targeting right-leaning groups, this charge is not as crazy as it sounds.

It turns out that the IRS had started working Larry over several years previous to the Obama interview. This made his Facebook post look a little funny, and after some deliberation, KMOV terminated him. I joined Mark Reardon to discuss the situation, including a very important distinction to make: did Larry run into a Facebook problem, or a personal judgement problem that just so happened to play out on Facebook?

As always, thanks Mark for having me on your show.


And here’s a link to my friend Aaron Perlut’s piece on

Amy’s Baking Company – Social Media Etiquette and Advice For People That Desperately Need It

Gordon Ramsey has a show on Fox called “Kitchen Nightmares,” where struggling or failing restaurants come to be saved. I am assuming restaurants approach him, versus the other way around, and I am thinking they do this for at least two reasons: 1. To get actual help for a business that really needs it, and 2. To get some high-profile publicity. Mr. Ramsey’s show has been on the air since 2007, a fact of which I’ve been blissfully unaware. Anyway, as it is a “reality show,” I am sure the show’s producers chop up and paste together the footage to suit their needs, paint people in the light they want them to be in, and basically manipulate the story to their end. Lots of drama, yelling, slamming of fists on tables… Gordon Ramsey is not the quiet type.

And yet, for the first time ever, he walked off a show in production and said, “You people simply cannot be helped. You’re an impossible case. I’m OUTS.” He’s British; I’m paraphrasing.

After the episode aired, the fine folks at Reddit began having a field day with it. I guess Amy and Samy took exception to the fun being poked at them and melted down HARD on Facebook. This is not the first faux pas I’ve seen a company make on social media, but the breadth and depth of this freakout was notable. Multiple posts, cursing, name calling, ALL CAPS diatribes, directly interacting with people and calling them the worst of worst names… it took Facebook by storm.

Anyway, I had a chance to briefly talk about it on Fox 2 Now with Angela Hutti. My main piece of advice here was to sleep on it. This was not one of those crises that required an immediate response. No one likes to be ganged up on and called stupid and horrible. The Yelp reviews started getting so mean and fictional – just absolutely crazy things being said. As a business owner, this would infuriate me. And it’s possible that I’d be so angry, a night’s rest would do nothing for me. However, I have typed angry emails and saved as a draft, and each time I did so, I changed up the email the next day. NEVER have I said, “Yeah, that crazy stuff, sounds like exactly what I want to convey.” Rather, I’ve softened up the message every single time I’ve slept on it. If the crisis does not call for swift response, try responding after you’ve cooled down. Your calm brain thinks so differently than your agitated brain.

Here’s a page on Huffington Post with many screenshots (WARNING: graphic language), and here’s a Buzzfeed article with much of the same. Note: both contained Youtube versions of the show, but those videos have since been taken down.

Here’s a link to the story on Fox2Now, in case the embedded video above chooses not to cooperate.

Unfriending People On Facebook

unfriending people on Facebook

When scanning your Facebook news feed, do you ever run across posts that infuriate you? Do you have certain trollers that always jump in on your posts and make comments that get your goat? Did you make Facebook friends with a stranger a year or two ago, and now you wonder why you’re staring at their meaningless updates?

Mark Reardon was in a ornery mood one night, and started unfriending the jokers in his Facebook news feed. In this radio debate, I explain to him that there’s no reason to be a big meanie. There’s a more humane way to silence the knuckleheads on Facebook.

Take a listen here to my KMOX radio interview with Mark and let me know what you think.

What I’m Going to Figure Out in 2013 – The Continuum

It all started with David Siteman Garland’s recent interview of Seth Godin. About eight minutes in, David asks Seth about his blog and why he turned comments off. In a world of social media best practices, not accepting comments on your blog is practically a cardinal sin. Seth gives a very convincing reason why he turned them off, and why it has worked so well for him over the years (hit play below to hear the reason).

I was then interested in getting a steak. I saw an ad for the 1904 Steakhouse at River City Casino, which is actually closer to my house than I had ever imagined. I looked up their Yelp reviews and it was pretty mixed, and mixed in that mix were some reviews with biting, negative language. In fact, I wonder if Yelp encourages such prose, as you can rate individual reviews as “funny” or “cool.” The inner food critic is unleashed in all of us.

Well, I thought to myself, “This is a casino steakhouse; why are you surprised it might not be good?” So to reestablish a baseline of what a set of generally positive reviews might sound like, I went to Robust Wine Bar’s Yelp page. (full disclosure: yes, I’m a huge fan of Robust. You probably knew that already. I don’t own a part of Robust, nor do I work for them. I just love them). Their average score was indeed higher than the casino steakhouse, and yet there were still some negative reviews. This should not have been surprising to me, as it is impossible to please everyone. I know this – the people at Robust want to please everyone. They really do care. Those negative reviews may have been deserved – it’s entire plausible that great restaurants have off nights, or that particular servers have off nights. But those reviews bother Robust. Reading them makes it a lousy day for the owners. I hope they don’t mind me saying, but this should not be surprising to you: WE’RE HUMAN.

Which led me to consider a continuum of engagement. On the one extreme, you have Seth Godin, who rarely engages. Watch the entire interview with David – he really doesn’t use Twitter, doesn’t allow comments on his blog, and generally turns down all coffee/lunch/pick-your-brain invites. On the other side are heavy engagers that lay everything out on the line every day, engage directly with those that choose to disagree with them, and generally expose themselves for consumption by the general public (not that kind of expose, get your head out of the gutter.)

Where do I fall on this continuum? Where should I fall? Where should my clients fall? As I reveal in this podcast, when I “get into it” with someone online or off, it ends up pretty much ruining my day. Confrontation is not fun for me. And yet, I do allow comments on my blog, I do public speaking when time allows, I do debate when the topic is dear to me, I do go to networking events and have coffee with people. I do leave myself exposed to criticism (not in some heroic way – just sayin). Maybe I should be more like Seth. Maybe I would be less afraid to take chances, and more apt to get the important stuff done.

In 2013, I want to better understand this continuum and where I should be falling on it. Should I gravitate more towards the Seth-like cocoon?

What do you think? Please leave a comment below.


KitchenAid Twitter Debacle – Keep This From Happening To You!

The first presidential debate of the 2012 campaign was held in Denver last night. KitchenAid accidentally chimed in with a wee bit of an off-color joke. Naturally, their quip about President Obama’s deceased grandmother was none too well-received.

How can we keep social media interns and junior people from accidentally tweeting from the big important corporate account? Separate devices! One for your personal social media accounts, and another for the corporate accounts from which you’ve been trusted to tweet. Watch the video above, and let me know what you think in the comments below.

Kitchenaid Twitter Mess

A few other items of note: see the jpeg below that Steve Hartman tweeted me – a huge transparent plea by an employee of KitchenAid to the media. I do not have firsthand knowledge of what happened here, but my guess is a lower level employee made the mistake, and Cynthia Soledad is working her butt off to make it better. So hats off to Cynthia for diving in.

Also, it is clear to me that, when your communications snafu reaches CNN’s front page, then you really screwed up!

Here’s another story from AdWeek.

Remember the 25-second rule, people! (yes, I’ve upgraded from the 5-second rule). Review everything about your tweet for 25 seconds before committing it to the public domain.


Honest Mistake? Or Capitalizing on Tragedy and Twitter Trending Topics?


Was this just an honest mistake? A plucky young intern that just didn’t know what they were doing? Or was this an attempt to make news, to capitalize on tragedy and the resultant Twitter Trending Topic? You be the judge. I don’t even know what to think anymore.

It’s exceedingly hard to imagine anyone would purposely tweet this on a day like today. (For posterity’s sake, there was a horrible mass shooting in Aurora CO at the premiere of the newest Batman movie).

The tweet embedded, until they delete it:

In an admittedly pointless attempt to keep this sort of thing from ever happening again, spread it around like mad on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook and LinkedIn, and make this company feel shame. And I’d like to hear what you think in the comments below? What was the true intent of the Tweeter here?
UPDATE – apologetic tweets from Celeb Boutique



My final take: it appears to have been one big colossal mistake. Their PR is not based in the United States. While this tragedy is likely a worldwide story at this point, it’s entirely possible their social media people had not heard about what happened.

For readily apparent reasons, I advise you to not ride the coattails of a Twitter Trending Topic without understanding why the term or phrase is trending. Things trend for both good and bad reasons. Once click on the trending topic “Aurora” would have shed some light on why it was trending. Sometimes it’s hard not to go 500 miles an hour when using social media. My best advice is to be extremely careful with your brand, even if it takes an extra 60 seconds to do some rudimentary research.

Faith in humanity: at least partially restored. Thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Aurora, CO.


I Only Want Positive Comments on my Blog

Rush Fitness Complex Facebook Fail

The grisly details (before they delete the post). Thanks to Scott Stratten for bringing this to our attention.

National Lacrosse League Makes Sports League and Social Media History

Philadelphia Wings lacrosse jerseys use Twitter names
As reported on ESPN, the Philadelphia Wings of the National Lacrosse League (NLL) have made sports league and social media history with a cool jersey enhancement. Each player replaced the name on the back of their jersey with their Twitter handle. I think this is awesome.

ESPN reports that the team did get approval from the NLL before making the jersey change. Here’s the NLL’s story on the game, which didn’t mention the jersey change much save for the opening line. Here’s a better story from the Toronto Star. Looks like the jerseys were auctioned off for the American Cancer Society, raising over $13,000.

I wish this had been my idea!