Social media—Twitter in particular—can be a powerful tool in a brand’s efforts to connect with people all over the world. But Twitter can also be used to take down individuals, groups, and companies at a moment’s notice through viral tweets, ill-advised hashtags, or by resurfacing controversial posts that range from silly and embarrassing to racist, insensitive and offensive. The following examines a recent example of past tweets emerging to damage personal and organizational reputations, and what steps businesses and individuals should take to prevent similar situations from happening.
Hours before the 2018 NFL Draft, racist tweets containing the “n word” from Josh Allen (a potential first overall pick) surfaced online. Josh Allen was ultimately drafted with the seventh overall pick by the Buffalo Bills. Undoubtedly, the racist tweets posted by the Caucasian player negatively impacted his draft position and contract value. Some estimate he lost millions in the maelstrom that followed the tweets resurfacing.
According to ESPN, Allen states he personally went through his past tweets a year prior to the NFL Draft, as well as having his agency comb through his past social media posts. Yet all somehow missed these offensive, racist tweets. Allen told ESPN, “My agency went over any past social media, and these didn’t come up after I did the search.” Eventually the tweets were removed, months after Allen’s personal social media audit. However, the damage was already done as someone had the foresight to screenshot and leak the offending tweets hours before the NFL Draft. This shifted the focus of conversations around him from his athletic abilities to answering questions and conducting interviews on why he posted these tweets and what it could mean for his future.
It would be foolish to view this as an isolated incident. The NFL is a multibillion dollar business, and according to a 2017 Forbes List, the Buffalo Bills are valued at $1.6 billion. Companies in all industries, not just sports, have partners—whether it’s a sponsor, brand ambassador, or high-ranking employee—associated with them, similar to how a quarterback represents an NFL franchise. In today’s digital age, this is a new risk companies face when associating their brand, their name, and their values with an individual.
The resurfacing of these tweets and the ensuing reputation damage and negative publicity the Bills organization faced for drafting this player could have been prevented had they conducted a proper social media audit.
Companies must take a few prevention and management steps prior to forming any formal partnership with a group or individual. Aided by a team with expertise in social media auditing and monitoring, these steps will help bring to light any red flags, and let companies get ahead of potential negative publicity around existing partnerships.
Keeping in mind the above incident, much more can and must be done to properly identify damaging material on social media. While Josh Allen had the good instinct to review his social media history—and even brought in an external consultant—hiring a partner with expertise in social media monitoring is critical. Conducting proper research on an individual’s various social media feeds, and the social discussions surrounding them is a key step in the prevention and management process. Thorough research must be conducted on all posts from potential and current partners to suss out any damaging material posted in the past. This research will help identify if the partnership is worthwhile for the business, or if an existing partnership must end in order to protect the company’s reputation.
Continuous monitoring throughout the partnership with the company is a must. Even if a damaging post is revealed and deleted during the Social Media Audit, it’s possible controversial posts could have been archived through screenshots or cached copies, and could reemerge, adding to the necessity for continuous monitoring. Social media is a 24/7 machine. Any errant post, like, or share can spark controversy—just ask Ted Cruz.
As proven time and time again, individuals and businesses are likely to find themselves in hot water over social media activity (or be at the center of an attack against them on social media), despite their best efforts to avoid controversy. Effectively utilizing the two previous steps in this process will make this third step that much easier. Through research and social listening, potential crises can be identified early, and an action plan put into place to mitigate reputation risk. A key tool in any social media crisis management strategy is close, continuous monitoring that provides internal teams with up-to-the-minute alerts to help guide and inform their every step.
If the proper steps are not taken, social media posts have a way of reemerging to damage the reputations of one or more involved parties—as Josh Allen, the Buffalo Bills, and countless other public figures and companies have and will continue to prove. However, when utilizing research and continuous monitoring, brands can manage and get ahead of any potential social media crisis.
If your company is looking to prevent a potential social media disaster or (on the bright side) wants to start using social media to help better understand audience sentiment, identify growth opportunities and improve campaign targeting, check out Anexinet’s Social Media Listening Services to learn more about the suite of services we offer—and the powerful insights you can glean—from AI-driven social media research, continuous monitoring, and analysis.
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