To tweet or not to tweet isn't really the question. PR agencies, media professionals, celebrities and civilians alike rely on Twitter for everything from promoting products to personal branding, from publicizing breaking news to broadcasting the awesomeness of one's recent casserole invention. The informal nature of the medium — its intrinsic spontaneity — encourages off-the-cuff 140-word snippets that often rely on cleverness and/or irreverence to stand out from the crowd. But what happens when impulsive tweets go too far?
In the case of tweeters in the public eye, there can be displeasing consequences. Contracts may be terminated, fines may be issued, fans may drop like flies, and death threats may be levied. (Not to mention political bombshells — remember former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner?) Here are a few cases of how the almighty Tweet can turn on you. #tweetsgonebad
1. Roland Martin doesn't bend it like Beckham
Watching the Super Bowl may breed macho behavior, the testosterone practically seeps through the television screen — but if it inspires a snarky homophobic rant, best keep it off the Twitter waves if you're a public figure.
Case in point: Roland Martin, syndicated newspaper columnist and political analyst for CNN. His reaction to a Super Bowl ad featuring a half-naked David Beckham peddling underwear for H&M; would have done better to have stayed within the confines of Roland's home media room, rather than the Twitter feeds of his 100,000-plus followers.
"If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham's H&M; underwear ad, smack the ish out of him! #superbowl."
Yeah, that didn't go over so well. Many, including gay advocacy groups, felt that the tweet advocated violence against homosexuals.
CNN's response: "Roland Martin's tweets were regrettable and offensive. Language that demeans is inconsistent with the values and culture of our organization, and is not tolerated. We have been giving careful consideration to this matter, and Roland will not be appearing on our air for the time being."
2. Octavia Nasr, shhhhhh
Like Martin, Octavia Nasr is also a CNN employee who found herself in a pot of Twitter hot water. Because if you happen to be CNN's senior editor of Mideast affairs, it might be a good idea to keep your respect for a terrorist to yourself. The Mideast expert for a variety of CNN platforms since 1990, Nasr was fired in 2010 for a tweet about Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, a Shiite cleric and inspirational figure for Hezbollah. Labeled a terrorist by U.S. officials, Fadlallah had often praised suicide bombings — including one in 2008 that left eight students dead at an Israeli yeshiva. Upon news of his death, Nasr tweeted,
"sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah. One of Hezbollah's giants I respect a lot."
In response to a storm of backlash, Nasr blogged that she didn't endorse the life work of Fadlallah. Yet her apology wasn't enough. Parisa Khosravi, senior vice president of CNN International Newsgathering, wrote in a memo, "at this point, we believe that her credibility in her position as senior editor for Middle Eastern affairs has been compromised going forward."
3. Your Red Cross donations hard at work
You tweet to your friends on one account, you tweet to your employee's followers on another. Keep. Them. Separate. Friends don't let friends tweet drunk, but that didn't stop American Red Cross worker Gloria Huang from tipsy-tweeting to 400,000 followers of the 130-year-old humanitarian organization about her extra-curricular shenanigans:
"Ryan found two more bottle packs of Dogfish Head's Midas Touch beer … when we drink we do it right #gettingslizzerd"
Oops. But even better than the aberrant gaffe was the Red Cross' response that, "We've deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we've confiscated the key."
Needless to say, this was pure gold for the marketing department at Dogfish Head Brewery.
Verdict: Forgiveness and increased sales for Midas Touch beer
4. Chrysler and the Motor City motor-mouth
Many corporations hire media companies to handle their social media outreach. Social media agency New Media Strategies was fulfilling this role for Chrysler when an employee of the company took his road rage to the tweet page with this little nugget:
"I find it Ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f*cking drive"
Yes, instead of a personal account, this one went out to all of squeaky-clean Chrysler's followers. New Media fired the employee, and not long after, Chrysler ended its relationship with New Media Strategies.
Verdict: Fired and fired
5. Scott Baio "should die"
It's probably safe to assume that nobody really loves to pay taxes, but clearly Scott Baio, the actor formerly known as Chachi, doesn't jibe well with the concept at all.
"Taxes are DONE…That should feed, house & provide medical for a few lazy non working people at my expense. Have a great Monday!"
The more-liberally minded set didn't quite see eye to eye with this little invective and a heated, and very public, debate between supporters and detractors ensued. Eventually, the tweet was deleted.
But what really put Baio in the dog house and inspired one follower to tweet to the star that they'd "find your house" and "finish you" was the post in which he cold-heartedly dissed Michelle Obama by tweeting a not-the-most-flattering picture of the First Lady accompanied by:
"WOW He wakes up to this every morning"
Verdict: Death threats, and an increase in Republican fans
6. Oprah games the ratings
Oh, Oprah. We love how you court your 9 million Twitter followers: Your friendly messages; reminders to watch your new OWN channel; the way you chat along with followers on premiere nights. We know you have a close connection with your fans, and maybe asking them to turn from the Grammys to your channel as your talk show was starting was par for the course. There was just one problem. Didn't you think that the Nielsen rating company might have a problem with the way you phrased your request?
"Every 1 who can please turn to OWN especially if u have a Neilsen box"
Although to many the post seemed just a slightly anxious plea, Nielsen took it as a potentially serious violation. "It is Nielsen's policy to note attempts to single out panel members to either change their viewing habits or otherwise influence or affect their reporting," wrote spokesman, Matt Anchin, in an email. Maybe she should have just offered them all trips to Hawaii instead.
Verdict: A scolding and a notated rating for that evening's viewings
7. Missing: Deepak Chopra's chill vibe
Deepak Chopra — the author of more than 60 books translated into more than 85 languages, fellow of the American College of Physicians, a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, adjunct professor of Executive Programs at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and senior scientist with The Gallup Organization — is known for his new-age spirituality and peaceful guidance. The healer's modus operandi is all about letting go of negativity, so it came as somewhat of a shock to many of his more than 600,000 Twitter followers when the guru got testy with a pesky tweeter.
Chopra follower, Suzanne Munshower, tweeted several comments voicing objections to a number of Chopra's tweets. Chopra had a special two-word reply for her.
While this may seem truly tame compared to many tweets in the tweetosphere, it's the context — the source of the tweet — that had many of Chopra's followers re-tweeting the imperative at a furious pace. Were there any negative consequences? Not really.
Verdict: Deepak Chopra is human
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