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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.

Mean Tweets: NBA Edition

It’s fascinating what people will say online, isn’t it?

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.

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.


Did Miracle Whip Respond Appropriately?

Miracle Whip tweet

For a brand like Miracle Whip, and a company like Kraft Foods, just what IS the proper response to such foul, hateful tweets?

A.) Say nothing at all. This seems to be the choice most corporations would make in this case. Very few people saw the guy’s tweet. There is no point in responding.
B.) Invite the hater to contact a toll-free number to resolve the problem. Funny, I see companies doing that too, and in this case that would be a completely wasted, out-of-touch tweet. This tweeter does not have a solvable problem with Miracle Whip or Kraft.
C.) Say something back that’s sort of snarky, which in this case is what Miracle Whip or the agency tweeting for them did.

I’m kind of liking “C” here. I have no problem with their response, and actually think it positively inures to their brand’s bottom line. What do you guys think? Let me know in the comments below.

Link to the original tweet here

How Not To Use Social Media To Promote Your Brand

It sucks that I am still able to write a blog post like this in 2012! Here’s some recent social media engagement from Vinos Finos Cafe in Raleigh, NC:

Vinos Finos Cafe


After @Nick314 brought this to my attention, we tweeted back and forth a bit about it, including a few others in our conversation. Scott Stratten (@Unmarketing) called it a train wreck and a perfect example of how not to tweet. After this discussion, in which Vinos Finos Cafe was included, and in which we were kind but direct as to how we felt about their inappropriate social media effort, I received this tweet from Vinos:

Vinos Finos Cafe

And you can see I responded. Will it ever end?


It Would Be Difficult To Make This Much Worse

No offense to this fine man, but what in the world am I looking at here?

Poor Twitter usage

If Someone Supports Your Business On Twitter, Follow Them!

Strange marketing decision: you live tweet your lunch at a restaurant, including pictures of their delicious food, you rave about your experience, referring to their Twitter handle the whole time, and after all that, they don’t follow you.

If I’ve ever done that to a Rizzo Tees customer on Twitter, I want to know about it! Because I will follow them on Twitter now and personally apologize!

End Dennis Miller-ish rant.

(great Dennis Miller quote: “You’ve got bad eating habits if you use a grocery cart in 7-Eleven, okay?”)

The Worst Twitter Auto-DMs In Human History

Image courtesy of

Full disclosure: I used to send auto-DMs on Twitter (automated Direct Messages).

Using a service like Social Oomph, you can have a Direct Message fire off to any new Twitter follower you have. I sent them thinking I was actually providing value (a coupon for my funny t-shirt site, of course!). It didn’t seem to affect the popularity of my Twitter handle, but who knows? Maybe I pissed off more people than I ever realized.

The only mitigating factor was that I remained and have always been extremely active on Twitter, very communicative, always engaging. I didn’t hide behind auto-DMs – I’ll chat with most anyone. It’s easy to get to know me.

So it may seem hypocritical to ask, but why the hell are people still sending these damn things?

  • Thanks for following us! How may I help you? (then you DM them back, and it’s silence – they don’t respond – I’ve had this happen so many times, and almost left it off the list. Luckily, @shonali on Twitter reminded me to include this one! Thanks girl.)
  • I believe the key to success on social media is consistent posting of relevant info. Thanks for following!
  • What’s been most inspiring web marketing advice you’ve heard? Would love to know more about you and your life ambitions! :)
  • The crow flies slow over Moscow. Pass it on but don’t tell Vasily. OK? Stay alert. (Давайте перестанем говорить с ума!)
  • Hi, I am a happy 24 hours mom . You can meet my baby if u want (Pass!)
  • I want to offer you a free spiritual phone consultation so you can achieve your visions. Set up your appt
  • R U exhausted from courtroom battles in front of a judge & lawyer negotiating with a soon-to-be-ex? See me.
  • Hi, this is a automatic mail to all my followers, [web URL redacted] is where you can find my recipe posting, if you hav <——- the DM ended there!
  • Thanks for follow! What are you currently working on? Maybe we can move forward together
  • Hi you might like this service, it lets your Facebook friends find you on Twitter (this one takes the all-time annoyance cake. I constantly write back to people and ask “Tell me what you like best about the service.” One person has written back. Ever. Spam sucks)
  • Thanks!You Can Get Paid On Twitter For Just all Of The Tweets?!Go Check Out This Link To Find Out How
  • It’s amazing to hear from you…sharing with like minded people makes us all more valuable…What’s your twitter goal? 😉
  • Question, Are You 100% Happy With Your Twitter Education? Look… [web URL redacted]
  • Thanks, here is something really fun and totally free. It’s free dating software at [web URL redacted] (I’m married with kids. This is like shooting marketing buckshot at me)
  • OMG! I really like you… come hang out with me where I spend most of my time Facebook [web URL redacted] I look forward to connecting. (It’s just weird to know that she’s sending this to everyone)
  • Who said good looking means no brains? Now go out there and strut your stuff, you’ve got it all. :)
  • Wow thanx! Look forward 2your twitts. Have u written your bucket list? Nick Halik’s Thrillionaires might get u started
  • As the inventor of the phrase “social media,” I defy you to name me a panda more dialed into the digital revolution. Just try. (OK this one isn’t that bad)
  • Thank you for following me, fire Your Human Article Writer And Article Submitter Guy…..
  • Heya, I’m studying the social media for profit training. What are you up to?
  • Hi There! Interactive, reverse marketing is my niche! Social media is what I master! Let me be of service to you. (This is a messy plate of scrambled eggs)
  • Hi 😉 Nice to meet you :) Add me at facebook too. 😀 (no link to her Facebook profile. Damn, I was dying to connect!)
  • Hi, Thanks for following me. I am looking forward to exchanging some useful info with you. Do you have a blog or website? (Don’t be lazy – it’s right in my Twitter profile! This is a serious pet peeve of mine)
  • Thanks for the follow so you are one of the in crowd too are you, you just have to twitter these days don’t you (???)
  • Hi thanks for follow, we are going to have a great fan! (Yes, the fan, THE FAN!!!)
  • We provide Support and Resistance PowerZones based on the confluence of volume, price, and more. [web URL redacted]. Tell me about you? (I want what they’re smoking)
  • Thanks for following! Be trained to build any MLM – mentoring for free! (Is MLM a kind of sandwich?)
  • And a host of DMs way too sexual to even post.

Stop the madness!!! By the way, check out this article on Tim Scullin’s site: How To Opt Out Of Annoying Twitter DMs

Also check out Sean Malarkey’s article How To Get Rid Of DM Spam On Twitter. Besides, Sean is a handsome man lol.

Truthfully, these can’t be the worst auto-DMs ever.  Please help! Leave a comment below with the very worst auto-DMs you’ve ever received!