Social media is easy to use, adaptable to the needs of the users and can reach many people easily. This is why it has become a popular way for athletes, politicians, entertainers and journalists to reach out to the public. However, when you combine that simple, quick media publishing with a lack of journalistic education and virtually no editorial oversight, a lot of “not-so-good” things can happen. This is why I tell students every semester that if they have a Twitter, Instagram, Flickr or Facebook account, they are publishers in the eyes of the law and responsible for everything the disseminate.
In short, you’re playing with live ammo, so be careful.
The book includes the story of Justine Sacco, a PR official who lost her job and saw her life go into a tailspin after an ill-advised tweet about a trip to Africa. Other examples include MLB pitcher Curt Schilling, who lost his job as an analyst at ESPN after he posted comments regarding transgender issues and a teenager from Texas who was fired ON TWITTER for cursing about her job ON TWITTER.
In some cases, it’s not a career-ending situation when someone makes a snap-back comment on social media, but in the case of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, it could lead to a heck of a bar tab.
The governor was said to be perturbed about a WIRED story that accused him of having a boring Instagram account. In response, Walker sent a comeback to his haters:
Of course, the story went viral, with multiple media outlets picking it up. Many social media users have also hopped on the issue, calling Walker out for a free beer (and in some cases, a better beer). Walker then upped the ante by offering some cheese curds to go along with the tasty beverage.
Clearly, social media is not a legally binding contract in a situation like this, but it’s a pretty safe bet that the governor would probably like a mulligan on that post.
Lesson of the day: Once something gets out there on social media, you no longer control it, so think for more than a minute or two about what you’re going to post before you post it.
After all, you are playing with live ammo.