The Ref, The Tweet & The Lawsuit

You may have heard that NBA official Bill Spooner is suing Associated Press reporter Jon Krawczynski. You may also have heard that pretty much nobody beside Spooner seems to think he has a case.

The lawsuit, which was filed against official NBA advice, is a mistake from a PR standpoint. A single tweet is quickly lost and forgotten in the churning flow of messages we read from social media every day. By filing a frivolous and frankly ridiculous lawsuit Spooner is calling attention to his ability as a referee and ensuring that his legacy will forever be “remember that guy who sued over a tweet?”

Spooner’s case illustrates an all too common phenomenon in social media – when the twitterverse turns against you, the worst thing you can do is overreact. Brands are learning this lesson, too – Aflac and Chrysler’s recent social media flubs dominated the press coverage, distracting the consumer away from the brand. So how does a company restore its good name?

Here are some ways to brave a Social Media Disaster:

An ounce of prevention: Give your employees and social media representatives some clear and simple guidelines for engaging in social media and be upfront about the consequences. Make sure they know what you consider “on the record” and what their responsibilities are.

Don’t overreact: The last thing you need when your brand has made the news for a social media misstep is to prolong the story by creating controversy with your reaction. Assess the situation, react appropriately, and be transparent. Don’t let a kneejerk reaction create more negative news.

React with something positive: The worst news for a brand is no news. You may have made the news with negative press, but now you have the public’s attention. Use it to gain exposure for the things you’re doing well.

Social media is still in its infancy and the legal and ethical implications are still in flux. Despite that, social media is ultimately a benefit to brands. It allows your brand to engage more personally with consumers and to form a lasting affinity.