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What Can We Learn From the First Social Media Fail of 2015?

I am asking all of my colleagues, friends, clients and acquaintances to make a simple New Year’s Resolution for 2015: Think before you tweet.

It is common sense, yet it is so often the cause of spectacular social media failures and firestorms.

The latest (and what I am calling the first social media failure of 2015) is courtesy of Sportscaster @jimrome who sent out a tweet (later deleted) in which he called all marching band members dorks.

Jim Rome Twitter Screenshot

The outrage and backlash was immediate and rapid with more than 22,000 tweets reaching 24.5 million people attacking Rome and defending marching bands. The hashtags #marchonrome and #romeisburning quickly trended and the engagement spread further on Facebook.

Spikes of the hashtags #marchonrome and #romeisburning

My personal favorite response (which has been cited by many others) was from the U.S. Army Field Band (@fieldband), which has been retweeted over 3,600 times:

Looking at it objectively, in terms of social media outrage, this is a modest backlash. But it struck a chord and spread to other media – with stories from the Washington Post to US Weekly among the outlets covering the anger.

Rome definitely pays attention – in reaction to the backlash he apologized and deleted his post, but the damage was already done.

Rather than pile on, are there lessons we can take away from this? I believe there are:

  • There is no such thing as a “filler tweet” – Many executives, spokespeople, brands and celebrities carefully craft their social content. But many also do one off “filler” tweets, where they want to keep the content stream flowing and send something they think is innocuous. I believe this is what happened here, but it also shows that every communication comes under scrutiny. Always send each tweet as if it was your first, and send each tweet as if it was your last.
  • Ask yourself “Will this offend anyone?” – Take a step back. Just because your friends and colleagues think one way, doesn’t mean it is OK to send. Spend the time to look at it from a different perspective. This is one of the many reasons why diversity is so important. If you can think of some way in which your tweet or blog post could be considered offensive – it probably will be and you should rethink your actions.

If we follow these two guidelines, there will be fewer social media firestorms in 2015, and we will better protect our brands and the brands of those we advocate for better in 2015.

Disclaimer: I was a member of the Syracuse University Marching Band – The Pride of the Orange.

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Mark McClennan

Mark McClennan

Senior Vice President at MSLGROUP

For the past 20 years, Mark has led teams working with innovative technology and healthcare clients for MSLGROUP. He is also the national chair-elect for PRSA.

Mark McClennan

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