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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

OLIVER: Corporate social media mishaps reflect broader trends


Social media is #awesome. It allows you to share your every thought at a moments notice. It is the epitome of free speech. Yet, on the Internet, you can share any opinion, no matter how divisive.

These tweets, posts and comments are rarely moderated and, at times, can be racist, homophobic or bigoted.

Last week, for example, the social media manager at The Home Depot, Inc. sent out a tweet with a picture of three people playing drums – two of them were African American and the third was dressed in a monkey suit. The caption read “Which drummer is not like the other?”

The social media manager is no longer employed by Home Depot, nor should he. The picture was out right racist.

Home Depot sent out preemptive apologies to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, none of whom commented on the tweet prior to the apology being sent out. Had Home Depot better supervised its social media manager, the whole ordeal could have been avoided.

The most baffling question is why has this happened more than once?  Social media managers should learn from the past mistakes of others and try not to repeat them.

Corporate responsibility is essential when it comes to social media. The social media point person for a company represents the whole company to a large audience. Before each tweet is sent out, a responsible individual should always ask him or herself, “Would I put this on display in the middle of a physical store?” The Internet, and social media by extension, presents a version of a company that is open and accessible to everyone, everywhere, all the time.

Irresponsible tweeting and sharing on Facebook is a chronic problem. Companies utilizing Hootsuite and Tweetdeck, online social media managers, schedule tweets to go out at certain times throughout the day. These tweets should be reviewed by upper management before they are sent out. When occurrences, such as the one at Home Depot, do happen, they force a company to make public apologies and lose respect nationally.

A perfect local example happened over the summer when campus burger restaurant Sobelman’s was accused of being responsible for a woman roofied at the restaurant. The social media manager at Sobelman’s, instead of issuing statements that the alleged incident was under investigation, decided to personally engage with everyone that tweeted at the company. Exchanges became heated and the social media manager issued an apology the following day.

This isn’t just a problem with businesses, as individuals bear part of the responsibility.

We all need to take a step back and take social media seriously. Hitting delete doesn’t mean a misguided post is gone forever. If it was on the Internet once, somebody will be able to find it.

On Halloween, a woman made the awful decision to dress as a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing. She posted the picture to various social networks, and she was fired soon after it hit the Internet. She since deleted the post, but the backlash still occurs.

Twitter is a great tool. You can reach millions of prospective clients at a moments notice, but you still have to recognize that at the end of the day, anyone can view your tweet and take it in any context they like.

Before you tweet, stop and think.

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