We have all said some bonehead things from time to time and stuck our foot in our mouth. Sometimes more embarrassing than others. Loose Lips Sink Ships as the saying goes. This week we saw a couple of pretty insensitive occurrences of that, one with Kenneth Cole, which Scott Monty, Head of Social Media at Ford covers in his post InKConsiderate

Earlier today, we witnessed something that was bound to happen: a brand used a controversial Twitter trending item to draw attention to itself. While Twitter’s Promoted Trends allow brands to do this on a paid basis, today marks a turning point in what I would call predatory – if not tasteless – marketing tactics.


Image by i am brad via Flickr

The second occurrence hit closer to home when Mike Volpe, VP of Marketing at HubSpot, made a derogatory comment about Detroit on his show, HubSpot TV. Dave Murray, founder of Social Media Club-Detroit said it best in his post No One in Detroit Knows How to Use the Internet and Other Bad Jokes;

Out of context, this a very naive and infantile thing to say. But out of context is the space we now live in. A flurry of tweets appeared challenging Mike to defend what he said, and rightly so. Online or off, we now live in a world where our audience isn’t limited to who is right in front of us.

How Does Business Leverage Social Media Without the Cut

With more employees Tweeting, Facebooking and digitally interacting with customers and potential customers on behalf of their employer, what is the answer here? Staying in the conservative middle is boring, and a race to mediocrity. No one engages boring, and no re-tweets or shares boring. How do we have an edge without cutting into sensitivity?

It is relatively easy to look in the rearview mirror at both of these instances and be critical, and while I am not condoning the comments, what are you doing with your staff to create the delicate balance here? If your content isn’t being shared there is no social media leverage.

It Isn’t About More Policy

Before the HR  crew jumps on the bandwagon about more and better social media policy and procedures, that isn’t the issue. The folks in this example are pretty bright, another policy wouldn’t have changed anything. And for the Neanderthals that think restricted access to the Internet tools is the answer, it isn’t. Business today must embrace the tools as routinely as they answer the phone.

Have you put your head in the sand surrounding this, what are your thoughts?

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About Eric Brown

Eric Brown

Eric Brown's background is rooted in the rental and real estate industries. He founded metro Detroit’s Urbane Apartments in 2003, after serving as senior vice president for a major Midwest apartment developer. He established a proven track record of effectively repositioning existing rental properties in a way that added value for investors while enhancing the resident experience. He also established The Urbane Way, a social media marketing and PR laboratory, where innovative marketing ideas are tested.

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Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.tfwco.com Trish Fischer

    It seems some business people/marketers, empowered with new digital media publishing strength and reach, feel pressure to also be entertainers. I tell my clients that social media is not a license for casual, off-the-cuff commentary. You still have to plan what you are going to say. You are the face of the company and need to stay on message. Yes, be authentic. But don't be offensive.

    • UrbaneWay

      Being Outspoken on the Social Web
      Trish, I think that the reason marketers are making an attempt to be entertaining is because they have to. Were the Super Bowl ads entertaining or a call to action for folks watching to but something.

      To your point, that does not give marketers a license to be insulting. Frankly, some folks just aren't funny.

  • http://mytwittertoolbox.com David Perdew

    There is definitely a fine line between tasteful controversy and blatant disregard for ethical content. But I do think that “stirring the pot” a little is a good thing for getting people to react to your posts, as long as you open the forum to criticism as well as support for your opinions. Let's be fair – if you're going to stick your neck out a little to get some reactions, you have to be willing to engage and respond to all comments that come your way.

    • UrbaneWay

      Has Driving Engagement Gone to Far
      David, Hello, You are making the point of the post, where is the balance, which becomes much harder to “control the message” as it flows down through employees.

  • Guest

    There is definitely a fine line between tasteful controversy and blatant disregard for ethical content. But I do think that “stirring the pot” a little is a good thing for getting people to react to your posts, as long as you open the forum to criticism as well as support for your opinions. Let's be fair – if you're going to stick your neck out a little to get some reactions, you have to be willing to engage and respond to all comments that come your way.

  • http://trafficcoleman.com/blog/official-black-seo-guy/ Black Seo Guy

    The internet is a place to be free and express yourself and companies can't stop their employees from doing so..let them use the facebook and shut up..

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  • http://www.whitevector.com Mikko Rummukainen

    Thanks for the post! The difference between being edgy yet without being insensitive is actually quite difficult one to find at times.

    I guess that the starting point would be to go from what your product, category or industry is. Then look at your intended audience and talk to them.

    Then again, being sure you're only talking to your 'intended' audience is quite a challenge, as one would bound to get their message across many different walks of life, and here is where edgy starts to make cuts.

    Indeed, this is actually a tough nut to crack, as giving a broad overall answer without being too vague is really difficult here.

    • UrbaneWay

      When You Go To Far with Social Media Remarks
      Mikko, you are right, it is a tough one, as the two folks cited in the post were veterans. It seems to me the logical answer is a well intended and sincere apology. Saying you are sorry mends a lot of fences.

      To that end, I can tell you that the apology from Mike Volpe to the folks in Detroit felt half baked at best.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cdeck93 Christopher Decker

    I think first and foremost, it depends on the type of product you are trying to brand or the type of business you work for – which is basically what Mikko commented on. There are many companies who practice traditional methods of everything and they may seem like the types of people who don't necessarily want to be edgy. But for those companies who are more modern with today's advancements, they are more likely to engage in some sort of beneficial controversy. Meaning, controversy that encourages thought-provoking responses. Usually, it's those thought-provoking responses that engage readers more and sometimes helps people figure things out about their own mission.

    Granted, this can't be confused with throwing out insults or being insensitive – as it clearly requires some form of planning. But it's been proven to work and has been proven to engage more readers, so why not be a little edgy?

    Personally, the world, corporate America, whatever you want to call it, is too serious and this could be that balance. If you know how to balance it, it sounds like it would be a recipe for success.

    This was an awesome read, Eric. And I'm linking this on my Facebook fan page to generate some opinions.


    • UrbaneWay

      Thank you for the comment Christopher, I much agree that friction that spurs healthy and respectable debate is where the golden nuggets are hiding. I too think that many folks are afraid to ever engage at the level, which is a travesty.

      Your mention of corporate America being too serious is spot on. Way to many folks hide behind the cloak of “professionalism” which can be mousey,

  • geristengel

    “Out of context is the space we live in now” is true only if we allow it to be. If every single word we write has to stand on its own, with no context, then we have effectively dumbed down all conversations. It is up to those who use social media to demand a fuller context so that we can have intelligent conversations that discuss nuances, what-ifs, and contingency plans, all of which could sound terrible if taken out of context.