Paying a high price for social media gaffes.

by Monday, March 21, 2011
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Funny, for so long even after seeing the movie “Bambi” as a child, the message was pounded into my head: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

In the world of social media, we have a slightly different variation on this message:

“Just because you have a forum to say something, doesn’t mean you should.”

It’s been a bad week for some people in the social media world… people who said and posted content that perhaps they now regret.  Let’s start with one of the most obvious…

Gilbert Gottfried

Some of us know him from SNL, and playing Iago the annoying parrot in the Disney movie “Aladdin.”  In later years, he gained fame as the voice of the duck in those ubiquitous commercials for AFLAC, and even of late I hear his voice on commercials for a dog treat commercial (he does the voice of the dog screaming, “Bacon!  Bacon!  Give me some bacon!” ).  In any event, it seems impossible not to recognize that voice.

Last week, that voice was silenced… at least as spokesperson for AFLAC, after 2 attempts at humor on Twitter, following the devastating earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster in Japan:

  • “Japan called me. They said ‘maybe those jokes are a hit in the U.S., but over here, they’re all sinking.’”
  • “I was talking to my Japanese real estate agent. I said ‘is there a school in this area.’ She said ‘not now, but just wait.’”

AFLAC, for whom 3/4 of their business is done in Japan, decided this was inappropriate and fired Gottfried.  Boy doesn’t this sound vaguely reminiscent of Kenneth Cole (except in Cole’s case, you can’t fire the boss over insensitive comments)?  Gottfried deleted his tweets, and followed up with “I was born without a censor button. My mouth and now e-mail will continue to get me into trouble.”

Lesson learned: For Gottfried, don’t make insensitive jokes in a public forum about people who are dying, even if it’s your own personal account.  For AFLAC, don’t hire a spokesman known for making insensitive comments.


The next example of social media faux pas comes to us, courtesy of Chrysler and Scott Bartosiewicz, a young employee who was stuck in a traffic jam and unfortunately, was also the DT (designated Tweeter) for Chrysler.  He tweeted:

This wouldn’t have been so bad except for one thing: Scott wasn’t logged into his own personal Twitter account on his smartphone… it wound up on the @ChryslerAutos Twitter account.  Oops.  By the time he realized what he’d done, it had been retweeted countless times.  Unfortunately for Scott, he’s now in the same boat as Gilbert Gotttried.  Scott claims it was a glitch with Tweetdeck, the software he was using.

Lesson learned: Make sure you’re logged into the correct account before dropping the F-bomb.

It’s Friday, Friday, Gotta Get Down on Friday…

The final example comes to us courtesy of a 13-year-old  girl named Rebecca Black.  You haven’t heard of her?  Then, you’re probably older than 20.  Rachel sang a song called “Friday” and her parents paid to have a music video produced by Ark Music Factory.  As of the writing of this blog, she has 26 million hits on YouTube, meaning it went viral and Rachel caught the golden goose (the one I described in this blog post).  Good news, right?

Well no, not exactly.  Why was it so popular?  Well, not to add to this poor girl’s trouble, but it became a viral sensation because it was not highly regarded.  Okay, let’s be honest… my daughter and all of her friends couldn’t stop talking about how bad it is (although they admit it’s ridiculously catchy).  Here… see for yourself:


To be fair to Rebecca, I doubt she wrote the song or ever meant it to become the topic of conversation it has become.  In fact, she has spawned horrible, bullying comments on her Twitter page and YouTube video (which I won’t repeat here).  I don’t personally think any teenager deserves to take this much abuse for putting out a harmless song like this, but it certainly makes one think.

Lesson learned: As they said in the “Social Network”, whatever you post on the Internet is written in ink.  Whether 2 people or 2 million people see it, be cautious since you don’t know how things will be perceived.

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