There are some that think any publicity is good publicity. While that may be true in the entertainment industry, it doesn't fly as well in the business world.

Elliot Markowitz

December 23, 2013

2 Min Read
Social Acceptance or Bad Business? Learn from Justine Sacco’s Mistake

There are some that think any publicity is good publicity. While that may be true in the entertainment industry, it doesn't fly as well in the business world.

There is a difference between being famous and being infamous. The problem is, however, in this social networking world of being “always on” and having a platform to reach the world at your (or your workers’) fingertips, there is a fine line between positive awareness and negative notoriety.

The power and ease of social networking has helped many businesses reach a massive audience they otherwise could not have afforded, but it also has brought others crashing down like phoenix. Just ask Justine Sacco.

Sacco was a high-flying PR executive for Internet giant InterActive Corp. (IAC), which is the owner of mega websites including Match.com and Dictionary.com. She was fired last week over what she thought was a harmless tweet before a luxurious trip to Africa. The tweet went viral in a matter of hours and brought much unwanted attention to Sacco and IAC. Even though she apologized for the insensitive tweet, she was let go from her prestigious position.

One might ask, shouldn’t a PR executive know better? Shouldn’t she have realized that because of her position—and because she uses her Twitter account for both business and personal reasons—she should always use good judgment?

Well, therein lies the rub. All too often companies “trust” their employees to Tweet responsibly or use discretion. They love the free promotional aspect that social media offers and are ever willing to allow employees to promote their businesses through their personal social means. Hey, whatever gets the word out cheap, right?

Wrong. This blending of professional and personal lives must have clear boundaries. As such, organizations need to implement clear-cut rules as to what is appropriate and what is not when it comes to social sharing.
In most cases, businesses are too loose when it comes training their employees in acceptable social networking etiquette. This is a recipe for disaster and eventually will lead to the wrong thing said by the wrong person representing an organization. If it can happen to an established and well-known PR executive, it could certainly happen to anyone.

It’s unfortunate, but take what happened to Justine Sacco as a wake-up call. If you don’t have hard rules for the way your employees use social networking, that needs to be a priority for your company in 2014. You also should offer training in best practices and etiquette. Otherwise, eventually social awareness will result in bad business.

About the Author(s)

Elliot Markowitz

Elliot Markowitz is a veteran in channel publishing. He served as an editor at CRN for 11 years, was editorial director of webcasts and events at Ziff Davis, and also built the webcast group as editorial director at Nielsen Business Media. He's served in senior leadership roles across several channel brands.

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