For the last few years we’ve been beaten over the head with the idea that your company should be involved in social media. And to a large extend I agree.
But you need to be careful WHO is involved in social media for your company. If for example, your chairman is a hot headed moron who’s likely to post the literary equivalent to a temper tantrum for all the world to see, he might not be the best candidate.
Thankfully, Dan Gilbert, chairman of Quicken Loans and majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers has provided a great case study for you and your company’s CEO on what NOT to do.
For the non-sports fans in my audience, allow me to set the stage for Mr. Gilbert’s meltdown. LeBron James, one of the two best players in the game, and almost certainly a future Hall of Famer was deciding where he wanted to play basketball for the next several years. James had played for the last 7 years for Gilbert’s Cavaliers and as an Ohio native, was the home-town hero.
Unfortunately for Cleveland, LeBron decided to join his friends in playing for the Miami Heat. In response, Dan Gilbert posted a letter (as seen below) to Cav fans on the team’s website.
Agree or disagree with LeBron’s decision, love him or hate him, you can’t tell me Gilbert’s letter improves the image of the Cavs or Quicken Loans.
While I can only imagine the frustration Cleveland fans must be feeling right now, Gilbert’s letter lectures calls LeBron selfish, narcissistic, heartless and a traitor. All of that for choosing to go “work” with his friends in what he deems a better environment.
By using such strong language Giblert doesn’t help improve his company’s image (which should be the goal of all social media efforts), but rather makes it seem like they’re led by a unstable hot head who lashes out when things don’t go his way. Not to mention the fact that we’re still talking about a GAME. James didn’t betray national secrets or abuse kids or kill puppies on his way to the podium last night. He simply didn’t make the decision Gilbert wanted.
Given Gilbert’s reaction to bad news, it’s no surprise there were no Quicken or Cavalier employees around that were willing to tell Gilbert the letter was a bad idea. While it’s great for CEO’s to be excited and engaged in social media, there HAS to be someone that can prevent debacles like this before they start.
Somewhere along the line last night, Gilbert needed an employee, whether someone from PR, Legal, a member of the social media team or hell, even the IT grunt (come on dude, at least change it from comic sans!) who posted the letter, to step up to the plate and challenge the idea. “Excuse me sir, but is this REALLY the face we want to show to the world right now? Can we maybe tone down some aspects of the letter and make it seem a little bit more positive in nature?”
Sure that version of the letter might not have made many Cav fans feel better, but it also wouldn’t have given the rest of the world the mental image of the chairman of Quicken Loans thrashing around on the floor kicking and screaming because he didn’t get the toy he wanted.
While the twitter rep for Quicken might think the letter show’s Gilbert’s a “passionate guy” I’m certainly not the only one who was repulsed by it.
And those are just some of the fan reactions! I don’t know about you, but my goal for social media is NOT to have people questioning the sobriety of my company’s chairman.
So yes, many companies DO need to be involved in social media. However, you also need to have systems set in place to make sure the engagement is positive, and helps improve your company’s image, rather than damaging the brand. If your CEO wants to blog, fantastic! But you’d better have the balls to intervene before he or she throws gasoline on a fire. If you can’t do that, or your CEO’s ego won’t allow that, you’d probably be better off if they avoided social media like the plague.
P.S. Yes that’s me throwing some sort of tantrum when I was younger. I’ve grown up since then, something it appears Dan Gilbert hasn’t managed to accomplish.