In today’s fast-paced world of social media, here’s one new rule: Avoid any show of force that could be perceived as grossly disproportionate.
People view the world’s big guys as being in a better position than its little guys, and that places the onus on you to behave reasonably and justly, even when defending yourself.
Example: In 2009, a woman named Amanda Bonnen sent out a message on Twitter to her 20 or so followers that said, “Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it’s okay.”
Horizon Group, the Chicago apartment leasing and management company, took umbrage at the remark, and sued Bonnen for $50,000.
In return, Bonnen’s lawyers filed a class-action suit against the firm for allegedly violating Chicago housing ordinances. Horizon fired back that Bonnen had “maliciously and wrongfully published the false and defamatory tweet, thereby allowing the tweet to be spread throughout the world.”
In fact, the tweet had reached only a dozen or so people. It was the lawsuits that pushed the story into Chicago Tribune headlines, and onto news aggregator sites such as Google News and Digg.
In the end, a judge threw out Horizon’s claims. All the company earned was a bad reputation.
— Adapted from “Reputation Warfare,” Leslie Gaines-Ross, Harvard Business Review.