A voiding a scandal: when professional and personal social media collide
You hear about a certain sort of situation several times a year: someone says something offhand on a social network, the post goes viral, and a firestorm of bad PR ensues – generally ending in the loss of someone’s job.
Last April, Adam Orth – creative director of Microsoft Studios at the time – fired off a brash series of tweets on his personal Twitter, in regard to the Xbox One’s rumored “always online” connectivity status. In his tweets, Orth added fuel to an unpopular rumor that his employers weren’t ready to talk about, and told his unhappy target audience to “deal with it.”
This did not go over well with anyone involved.
Orth later made the tweets protected, but not before the damage was done; they had been preserved on the internet through screen captures, and the backlash was in full swing. Orth resigned from his position at Microsoft, but that didn’t stop the internet from launching into full harassment mode. His slip-up on social media earned him the full wrath of a demographic which isn’t exactly known for mincing its words – especially when anonymous.
A year later, Adam Orth has rebooted his life. As IGN’s Mitch Dyer reports, Orth has learned from his mistake. After leaving Microsoft, he launched a new game studio, and recently debuted their first game at the 2014 Game Developers Conference. His story has a happy ending – and I admire him for that.
In the end, Orth made a mistake that, really – quite easily – any of us could have made. And that’s why I think it’s important to examine. Regardless of the industry, Adam Orth’s story stands as a lesson for any professional on social media in avoiding a scandal.
At the time of the incident, one of Orth’s tweets read, “Sorry for expressing my personal opinion about what I want from the electronic devices that I pay for on Twitter. Jesus.”
Reading this, I can’t help but think of Hamilton Nolan’s recent article on Gawker: Twitter is Public. Despite the title, it’s not an article about Twitter’s IPO, but a rather tongue-in-cheek reminder that, in Nolan’s words, “Twitter is public, and published on the internet, it is possible that someone will quote something that you said on Twitter in a news story.”
Nolan’s article itself is circling a serious discussion about journalistic ethics and practices in the era of social media, but there’s another important takeaway that many of us forget all too often:
What we post on any public social network is there, potentially, for the whole world to see. If we slip up and hit the wrong nerve, we’re liable to be held accountable for that.
I think (or at least hope) that most of us are particularly conscious of this when we’re posting as a business page. This changes a bit depending on the size of the company, but most people aren’t going to forget they’re posting publicly behind a logo, then go get in a public argument about some controversial issue (that has happened before, though).
But what about when you’re posting to your very own personal social media account, which you’ve been using for years to talk about all sorts of things? Are you still an envoy of your business then?
Ask yourself this:
Is it possible that some of the people who follow me connect me with the company I work for?
If the answer to that is even “maybe,” then you should take a moment to re-examine your posting habits and think, “Is this something that could be damaging to myself or my company if it picks up publicity?”
This might seem like basic advice, but that’s part of the problem; sometimes we forget basic things – like the fact that the internet is a very public place in general, and quite fond of scandals.
Avoiding a scandal on social media: the tl;dr
If you’re a professional on social media in any industry, understand that what you post on social media isn’t necessarily private – even if you have a small following. It’s a bit like being back in school, and keeping a shared diary with your friends – except, anyone can waltz on by and see what you’ve written there.
Before you know it, you’ve been called into the principal’s office, and you sure don’t like that look on his face.