Social Media Lessons from the Jennifer Livingston Story

Jennifer Livingston, WKBTAll hail the great, all-mighty, Social Media Network! Ever since Jennifer Livingston stood up to her bully, the power of social media has been evident around the globe. Many of us knew how important it was to keep a watchful eye on our business social media pages, but after this event, the realization really hit home.

When Jennifer received an e-mail from the La Crosse man who called her obese and unfit as a role model to kids, she retaliated. Her husband posted the e-mail on his facebook page,then she reposted it onto her own, and it blew up. She then went on to further stand up for herself on local television, and the story spread even faster. Around the country, celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres and Lance Bass were applauding Jennifer on Twitter, and soon people from around the globe were tweeting, blogging, talking, and posting about Jennifer’s message to her bully. All of this happened within a day and originated from the small city of La Crosse, Wisconsin.

So what can you, as business owners and professionals, take from this example? Besides some of the obvious things, like don’t mess with a journalist, there are 4 key social media lessons to take from this story.

  1. Watch What You Say. Even if your intentions are good about something, choose your words wisely. The man who wrote that e-mail to Jennifer claims to have written it for the health benefit of Jennifer and the children who see her on television, but to almost everyone else, the letter was cruel and hurtful. Avoid controversial topics and consult with a colleague before posting something that might offend someone (sleep on it).
  2. Apologize. If you offended, angered, or hurt someone’s feelings in something you posted, account for it and apologize. Be sincere and ask if there is any way you can rectify the situation. If you ignore an angry fan, you might as well pour gasoline on the small fire that you started. Fix the situation as soon as you can, so it does not escalate to global awareness.
  3. Harness The Power For Good. When a big story breaks out, snatch it up and find a way to relate it to your brand. This story, for instance, was blowing up on Facebook and Twitter. Many brands recognized this and sent out tweets to congratulate Jennifer or send their support. By getting involved in a human interest story, you can humanize your brand and get exposure within a popular topic.
  4. NEVER Release Personal Information. The one critique that we have of Jennifer is her personally publishing the name of the man who wrote her that nasty e-mail on her Facebook page. Even though she has the freedom of speech and the man should be responsible for his actions, as professionals it is almost never ok to give out personal information about someone without their permission, especially when it is done in a malicious manner. Just from knowing the man’s name, people were able to get his address, phone number, and place of employment. The bullied (and all of her “friends”) became the bully, intentionally or not.

Fortunately, nothing bad has happened to this man that we know of, besides a social bashing, but what would happen if an enraged fan tracked him down and hurt or killed him? Who would be responsible for his death? In a moment of hurt and anger, these are things that we probably wouldn’t be thinking about. But if you encounter a similar situation with a fan, take a second to think and hold back the reigns of your emotions. You can talk about the situation, but keep out names and other personal information.

Social media is a powerful tool. If you use it correctly, it can be a great tool for strengthening your brand, generating business, and increasing profits. If you don’t use it correctly however, it could bite you where it hurts; your pocket book…or worse!