It seems like tragedy has firmly implanted itself as a part of our country, and therefore as a part of social media. I’ve read opinions trashing the way businesses handled their social media after the Colorado theatre shooting, the Newtown school shooting, and the recent Boston Marathon bombing.
Everyone has an opinion as to what your business should and shouldn’t post on its social media networks in the midst of tragedy. And, of course, their opinion is right.
On the day of the Boston Marathon bombing, nearly all of the criticism seemed to fall on one person, Guy Kawasaki. While many, if not most, high-visibility brands stopped posting on their social media networks, Guy let his automated tweets continue to post on Twitter.
In case you don’t know Guy (@GuyKawasaki), he’s a prolific tweeter. He tweets several times an hour. Many of his tweets are automated. And, he hires people to curate the content and post tweets for him. There are things that people can (and do!) criticize about his Twitter strategy. But, with nearly 1.3 million followers, it looks to me like it’s working for him.
When news of the Boston Marathon bombing broke, I shut down my social media postings for the day. Nothing that I was thinking about saying seemed to matter at the time. So, I did what felt right to me. Apparently, this is what felt right for many other people too. And they decided to tell Guy that it’s what should feel right for him. Here’s a sampling:
Guy’s response was, well, probably not perfect:
It was likely this response, more than the continued tweeting, that suddenly made Guy “Public Enemy #1.” And yes, Guy acknowledged his response probably should have been deleted before he sent it, in this exchange with Jon Loomer:
But the damage was already done. Articles started sprouting up slamming Guy Kawasaki for the continued auto-tweeting and ~ especially for ~ the reference to people with less than 1500 followers. The articles are still being shared on Twitter and Facebook, and Guy continues to get called all kinds of names and unfollowed by a few angry former-fans.
I don’t agree with Guy’s decisions on this tragic day. But, his words and his actions certainly don’t qualify him as “one of the biggest jerks on the Internet.” I have no special love for Guy Kawasaki, but I do have 5 things to say in his defense.
1. Life Goes On
As heart-breaking as the bombing was, the world did not stop. There were still businesses to run, “to do” lists to complete, and even other relevant news to be shared.
No one faulted McDonald’s for not calling the tv stations and asking them to pull their ads for the day. No one criticized the grocery stores for remaining open, and continuing to do business as usual without so much as even pausing for a moment of silence.
In continuing his scheduled tweeting, I don’t see how Guy did anything different than any of those millions of other businesses did.
2. Would You Take Advice From Someone Who’s Not an Expert in Your Field?
As for the comment about people with less than 1500 followers telling him how to tweet ~ well ~ that’s probably one of those you think without saying out loud.
But certainly, this is the attitude I’ve seen many experts express. They just put it more delicately. A common tweet or status update goes something like this: “Be careful who you listen to. Everyone claims to be an expert, but if they haven’t done what you’re trying to do, then how can they teach you to do it?”
I don’t completely buy into that, but there is some truth to it. Should Guy Kawasaki take advice on his social media strategy from people with few followers and no apparent credibility on the topic of social media strategy? Probably not. (I wouldn’t). Does that mean those people have nothing valuable to say? Again, probably not. Yet that’s how the haters interpreted Guy’s comment.
3. Social Media is Not “One Size Fits All”
Just because you and I found the proper strategy to be shutting down social media posting, doesn’t mean that was the proper strategy for everyone. I’m thinking Guy Kawasaki is in touch with his strategy, and what’s best for his audience.
And yes, there were a few complaints. But the number was tiny compared to the number of followers Guy has. And, there hasn’t been a drop in his following over the past 5 days.
Personally, I find promoting yourself in the name of the tragedy to be a worse strategy, yet all kinds of people were doing that without anyone complaining. I agree with @KludgyMom:
In addition to the quicky (and lame) SEO’d posts, I saw a couple of graphics floating around on Facebook that seemed to be about nothing other than self-promotion. They both showed an obvious stock photo of happy runners, unrelated to the Boston Marathon, with a message about prayer for the people effected by the bombing written across it.
These graphics started appearing within minutes of the bombings. Not only were they in poor taste, in my opinion, they served no purpose other than to promote the businesses posting them. I’m not saying these businesses weren’t praying for those effected. But prayer wasn’t the first thing on their agenda.
But, who am I to question those businesses’ social media strategy? If it works for them, great. I can “unlike” them if it doesn’t work for me.
4. Your Reaction Shows Your True Colors
Typically, when a business (or individual) screws up and lots of people notice, they quickly delete the offending tweets and try to offer up a lame and unconvincing excuse. The silliness behind deleting the tweets is that it’s too late. Once people notice, the screen shot is going to exist forever.
What did Guy Kawasaki do? He left the tweet up, and admitted that he probably shouldn’t have said it. As people continued to vilify him on Twitter, he invited them to leave their email address so he could explain his side of it to them in more than 140 characters. If he was really the arrogant ass people are trying to make him out to be, he would just ignore the fallout.
His reaction shows that even if he isn’t taking social media advice from people with less than 1,500 followers, he does value relationships. In fact, Guy is one of the few “gurus” who’s engaged with me directly on social media, both on Twitter and on Google+. And that’s what it’s all about.
5. People Should be Encouraged to be Themselves
Finally, isn’t social media about being real? Forming relationships with people you could never have in “real life?” Naturally, not all 500 million people on Twitter are going to be a fit for you. That doesn’t mean they are “bad” people, or that they deserve to be personally attacked in the way I’ve seen people do over the last week.
I think @MelissaOnline summed it up best:
You do have over 500 million choices, you know . . .
Whether you agree with me, or not, I’d love to hear your thoughts specifically on Guy Kawasaki, or in general on social media strategies during a tragedy.