As more executives embrace social media, the odds of embarrassing blunders soar. One wrong move can destroy a career.
Consider what happened to public-relations maven Justine Sacco. Just before boarding a flight from London to South Africa in December, she used Twitter to write what she apparently thought was a witty, provocative message.
“Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”
Those 12 words created a firestorm by the time she landed at her destination. Offended readers shared their outrage and passed along her insensitive tweet.
After she arrived in South Africa, she learned of her mistake and soon apologized. But her employer, InterActive Corp., promptly terminated her.
Sacco’s experience serves as a reminder of the potential power of social media. Before you type a quick comment online, ask yourself, “Is this message aligned with my values?” and “Is there any possibility people can take this the wrong way?”
If you sense that you’re engaging in edgy humor that only a select few might appreciate—reconsider hitting “send.” Weigh the risk—and cost—of having your message misunderstood.
At the same time, rethink your objectives. What’s your purpose for communicating in the first place? If your tweet doesn’t advance you toward your goal or reinforce your desired image, then stop before it’s too late.
—Adapted from “The Tweet Heard Round the World,” Josh Linkner.