What small business owners can learn from the Mark Latham Twitter scandal

Joel Svensson

Mark Latham has been forced to give up his column at the Australian Financial Review amid speculation he used a fake Twitter account to “troll” women online. The former Labor party member turned shock-jock columnist had recently come under fire for his comments about women and feminism, including insensitive remarks regarding transgender military officer Cate McGregor and Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty.

Both McGregor and Batty were also targeted by the “parody” Twitter account, @RealMarkLatham. Latham was linked to the account after Buzzfeed pointed out several similarities between @RealMarkLatham’s Tweets and Latham’s column.

Whether or not Latham wrote the Tweets, the scandal once again highlights the influence that social media can have on a brand. Careless or negative interactions can see things quickly spiral out of control. Whatever you do on social media, make sure it’s not the below.

Get aggressive

As online business reviews become ever more common, so too do bad responses to these reviews. One of the more notable responses was that of chef Claude Bosi, who took issue with an amateur restaurant reviewer after he awarded the chef’s restaurant only three stars out of five on TripAdvisor.

Rather than thank the reviewer for their feedback and wish them a good day, Bosi unleashed a tirade of abuse on Twitter, and his reputation will likely never recover.

Engage autopilot

Automated Tweets can be helpful, but during a crisis, they’re best switched off. Bank of America found this out the hard way, after repeatedly responding to negative feedback and serious allegations over Twitter with “We’d be happy to review your account with you to discuss any concerns.”

Get defensive

In possibly the most spectacular social media meltdown ever documented, Samy and Amy Bouzaglo took to Facebook to defend their reputation after being featured on Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares. What followed was a string of increasingly puerile and unhinged posts, in which the couple repeatedly called other Facebook users “punks”, “trash” and “stupid”.

Far from intimidating users, this behaviour only ensured that the couple and their restaurant became an internet laughing stock.

Try to bury the issue

In response to the negative feedback regarding a fired staff member, American restaurant chain Applebee’s attempted to defend their actions via a Facebook post. This sparked thousands of negative comments, some of which Applebee’s deleted – which only enraged users further. To make matters worse, Applebee’s then decided to hide the Facebook post. Nevertheless, within 24 hours, the post had attracted nearly 20, 000 comments.

Applebee’s mistake of getting defensive was only compounded by its attempt to sweep the backlash under the rug. Transparency and contrition – two things that might earned the company some respite – were nowhere to be found.

Joel Svensson

Joel Svensson is a Melbourne-based freelance writer specialising in politics and business.

Image: Jeff Turner, Flickr CC license

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