Own Your Social Media Mistakes

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The Ray Rice saga reeks from top to bottom, and nothing I write here can help the Baltimore Ravens organization distance itself — and the National Football League — from this debacle. Nothing I write here will help solve the issue of domestic violence. Nothing I write here will calm the outrage of people — sports fans or otherwise — who have witnessed this story unfold and are sickened by actions of the once-respected people involved.

Those are issues best tackled elsewhere, and plenty of smarter folks are doing their best to tackle them. (For starters, check out Mike Sielski’s piece or this from Keith Olbermann or this from Sam Laird.) What I can offer are two simple social media lessons we can learn in the wake of the Ray Rice incident…

Own your social media mistakes. If you are foolish enough to live tweet a news conference with a player accused of beating up his wife — regardless of the circumstances surrounding those actions — you should not delete those tweets (or a subset of them) hours, days or months later.

Apologize. Acknowledge mistakes. Do better the next time.

I’ve deleted plenty of tweets over the five-plus years I’ve been using Twitter (both personally and representing my brand). But it’s usually for a grammatical error, a bad link or something similar — and usually within minutes or hours of tweeting it.

The Ravens’ actions — deleting months-old tweets — is disturbing. It suggests to me something more sinister at play — of covering tracks and tying up loose ends. It’s not behavior appropriate for social media — where transparency trumps public relations. And it only generated more outrage — in the news media and on Twitter.

Never live-tweet a news conference regarding a legal matter! Yes, hindsight is 20-20, but who was running the show and decided back in May this was a good idea?

The Ravens’ punctuated an already over-the-top, victim-blaming display when it live tweeted statements made by Rice, and his then-fiancee. The Ravens have answered the question, “Should we live tweet this?” — should it ever arise in team sports again.

From a social media content strategy perspective, legal matters are of interest to a certain point for fans. But because they’re legal matters, teams and leagues can easily stay above the fray by issuing legally-approved and prepared statements, rather than rapid-fire play-by-play.

Just because we use a platform to share breaking news doesn’t mean we have to break all the news on it. The expectations for in-the-moment social media content are not the same — nor are they appropriate for a team or league to share — surrounding legal matters.

The Ravens should apologize — for its handling of the Ray Rice saga and for a lousy attempt at cleaning up a social media mess four months in the making.

Thanks for being a fan.

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