SeaWorld tries #AskSeaWorld, and the internet responses exactly as you’d expect

How many times do I have to say it: If you are highly controversial, or you have a huge negative sentiment, don’t hold an open hashtag event or Q&A session. Sea World has become the latest entrant into the club of businesses or government agencies which wrongly thought that the internet was a forgiving, understanding place.

Sea World has come under fire from animal rights groups for its treatment of the animals within its captivity, fire that significantly accelerated in 2013 with the publication of Blackfisha documentary which was heavily critical of Sea World’s treatment of killer whales.  In an effort to pull back against those critics, Sea World launched, which posts questions and answers that it gets from the Twitter hashtag #AskSeaWorld:

Yeah…about that….

Astoundingly, SeaWorld responded by essentially mocking those trying to troll it:

This, of course, only incited more responses…seriously, SeaWorld, what the heck were you thinking here?

It then stopped mocking and then called its opponents “trolls and bots”:

Guess how that went?

Well, the important thing isn’t so much, “How are things going on Twitter?”  It’s more, “What kind of response is this #AskSeaWorld effort getting?  Is it getting good publicity?”  Let’s check Google News and see….


Above: Great PR!

Nope…unmitigated disaster.

SeaWorld got this one wrong six ways from Sunday.  It’s hashtag campaign is being almost exclusively used by people to attack the parks.  It’s responses to the hashtag campaign were more than just poor judgement, it was malpractice – you do not tweet responses which FURTHER ENCOURAGE TROLLS.  If you respond, you say something mature, like, “We’d love to answer all questions, even from critics, and set the record straight.”  Cute GIFs and obnoxious attitudes will win you no friends.

Oh, and again, don’t hold an open hashtag or ask for feedback if people really hate you, because it will backfire.

Tweets and Consequences

Like the blog?  Get the book!  Tweets and Consequences: 60 Social Media Disasters in Politics and How You Can Avoid A Career-Ending Mistake is now available on Amazon for purchase or download.

Congresswoman tries to attack Obamacare on Facebook; attack backfires hilariously

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-WA) is the Chairwoman of the Republican House Conference, and the only female in Republican House Leadership.  Last week marked the five year anniversary of Obamacare, and as such, the Congresswoman took to Facebook to rip into the President’s controversial health plan.

As you can see, the Congresswoman specifically asked for people to “share their stories” about Obamacare “challenges.”  That certainly happened, to some extent.  However, many of the stories shared – likely far too many for the Congresswoman’s taste – discussed Obamacare success stories.  Examples included:

  • Janet C: My story is this: my husband and I worked to pass Obamacare because we believed all Americans should have access to quality healthcare, like we did through his workplace. We never thought it would affect us. Then one day I came home and found my strong, apparently healthy husband dead in the backyard. He had experienced cardiac arrest. Within one week I was off his plan. I purchased COBRA for a year and then looked for a less expensive plan. I applied for Blue Cross and was turned down due to pre-existing conditions: arthritis and bunions. I was so happy when Obamacare went through and I had access to healthcare. Never thought it would be me who needed it, but it was. Thanks, President Obama!
  • Matthew R: Employee insurance premiums for my small business were up only 6% this year. That is the smallest increase in the 16 years I have been in business. The ACA has been very good to my employees and has contained costs for my business. Please stop trying to take people’s insurance away by repealing the ACA,
  • Laura W: Oh, my, where to start? Let’s see, I now am able to get annual exams for breast cancer, colon cancer, depression screening, bone density tests and overall wellness exams FOR FREE! My insurance (thanks to Medicare) covers eye care and dental care, plus fitness program INCLUDED! I also have 24/7 access to health professionals. And I’ll tell you what else: I required extensive tests last year to find out what was wrong with my heart and guess what?! My insurance covered all but $250. The bill came to $7,000! Yes, thanks to #ACA, my coverage has not only improved through Medicare, it’s broadened and my premiums (MA) haven’t risen nearly as much as they did before this.

And there are plenty more where that came from.

The story garnered the Congresswoman national press, mainly because of how seriously it backfired.

Is this a big deal?  Of course not.  It’s more of a snarky thing for liberals to laugh at – here’s a Republican Congresswoman getting trolled on her own page over her attempts to attack the President and Democrats as a whole.  It’s a laugh for Democrats, but really, that’s about it.

That being said, this incident does show the danger of publicly asking for feedback, only to have it backfire.  It’s one of the reasons I always say that you need to be careful in asking for feedback or contributions on an open thread or hashtag.


Using Meerkat and Periscope for politics

You know how it seems that there is a new social network that comes out every few months that you have to pay attention to?  Yeah, about that, I have another one for you!  Meerkat.

The first question: What the heck is a Meerkat?  Simply put, it let’s you stream from your phone, live.  A notification then goes out over Twitter that you are starting a new Meerkat session.  You can do one spur of the moment, or you can schedule it in advance.

It’s very simple but brilliant and has seen massive growth since it’s recent introduction: it took SWSX by storm in a manner similar to previous apps, like Twitter and Foursquare and it has since confirmed $14 million in start-up funding.  Twitter, meanwhile, has launched it’s own competing live-streaming app, called Periscope.

But, the important question is this: How can you use it??  Here are some thoughts:

  • Events & press conferences: When you are doing a live event, put your iPhone in a position so that it can record you, or ask a staffer to hold it.  It’s a great way of bringing people directly to you.
  • Committee votes and floor action: Show how you are voting or what your view from the floor looks like.  Use this carefully; in some places, including Washington, D.C. and Harrisburg, this violates legislative rules.
  • Press interviews: You need to ask for permission from a reporter first, but if they are okay with it, Meerkat an interview and give someone a behind the scenes look at what dealing with the press is like.
  • Do your own interviews: Talk with constituents, your staff, anyone!  Let people know more about your job by interviewing those who are involved in it.
  • Randomly!: Walking through your state capitol?  On a bus with nothing to do?  Break out Meerkat.  It gives people an incredible chance to see your life as it is.

Any other suggestions to add?  Let us know in the comments!

Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz announces Presidential candidacy at Liberty University, is promptly ripped on social media

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) became the first Republican to formally announce his candidacy for the 2016 Presidential race.  In the course of doing, he spawned not one, but two social media problems for his campaign.

First, there was the trending topic #TedCruzCampaignSlogans.  This became a top trending topic on Twitter, and most (although not all) of the tweet’s on the trend were mocking Cruz in some way.  Among the highlights:

This, of course, turned into multiple news stories, and certainly not the kind that Senator Cruz was working for that day.

Was there a way around this?  Sort of: Cruz should have had an official hashtag for the announcement event. Would it have stopped opponents from using the hashtag?  Of course not – in fact, it would have been expected for Democrats, liberals, and potential opponents to buy ad space for the tag (unless Cruz got their first) and generally try to crash it.  That’s fine and to be expected.  But, it would have channeled the opposition to a set hashtag – and possibly prevented news stories about Twitter trolls.

Next was Yik Yak.  Yik Yak is one of a series of social media platforms that allows users to make anonymous comments.  The app then groups these comments based on location.  Liberty University students were required to attend the Cruz announcement, because, in the words of Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, “It is no secret that Convocation is held three times a week and attendance is required, just like class is required for students. No one is expected to agree with every speaker on every point.”

And, as the Yik Yak comments indicated, not every student was happy about being made to attend:




Was there anyway to stop the Yik Yak comments?  No.  It’s comes with the territory of making college students do something they may not want to.  This wasn’t a social media problem, it was a structural one.  By the way, this also caused news stories.

So, in terms of social media, a rough start for the Cruz campaign.


Two elected officials in Monmouth County, NJ, make ridiculously racist Facebook posts

Today’s entry comes to us courtesy of two Republican elected officials in Monmouth County, New Jersey, who decided to make racist posts for the whole world to see.

First, we have the Mayor of Union Beach, Paul Smith, who made this racist post:


Then there is Victoria Dean, who is the Vice President of the Marlboro Board of Education and a member of the Monmouth County Youth Services Commission, who shared this post:

Victoria-Elizabeth-Dean Racist

That comment left by Mark Garza, which has one like?  The like came from Dean.

For obvious reasons, local Democrats attacked.  Said Monmouth Democratic Chairman Vin Gopal:

“The President was born in Hawaii, is a Christian who baptized both his children, and is a member of the Democratic Party.  It is both puzzling and disturbing that a public official like Mayor Smith would deliberately spread falsehoods and misinformation.”

Dean apologized for the posts at the next school board meeting, which 125 people attended and featured over two hours of public comment about Dean’s remarks:

Dean then read prepared remarks wherein she defended the post as “an inadvertent acknowledgement of a friend’s comment” and not her comment. She said that Garza’s comment does not reflect her sentiments or feelings and she apologized for offending the community. She said she is not a racist or a bigot, that she is a minority herself and that she understands the impact of racism.

Many of those speaking called for Dean to resign from the school board.  There’s an added political dimension to the discussion over Dean, as her husband was also the Chair of the Monmouth County GOP.  I say “was” because, in light of the scandal, Christopher Dean resigned from that position.

As for Mayor Smith: as best I can tell, nothing.  No apologies, no explanation, and no resignation (if I am wrong, please correct me).

There’s no analysis possible here.  Both of these posts were disgusting, and no one in public office should promote this kind of racist filth.  This isn’t so much a Facebook issue as it is a judgement one – these two people should not hold elected office.

FEMA apologizes after tweeting (minor) House of Cards spoiler

(Warning: Minor House of Cards spoiler ahead)

I’m a big House of Cards fan, and I was happily able to finish Season 3.  Without going into too much detail, one of the major plot points involves President Frank Underwood’s handling of an emergency and using FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to fund a jobs program.

Three weeks ago, FEMA sent out this tweet:

The issue?  Spoilers!  Standard internet etiquette is that you are supposed to not spoil a show, no matter how small the detail, or at least put a “spoiler warning” at the top of an entry (like I did).  I’m not really too sure how that would apply to Twitter, so perhaps it would have been better if FEMA had skipped this tweet altogether.

Either way, the internet let FEMA have it:

FEMA, facing a storm of criticism (Haha, storm, get it?  Sorry, sorry….), acknowledged that it should have, perhaps, posted a “spoiler alert” in a later tweet:

Did you ever think that technology would evolve to the point that government agencies are now being criticized for spoiling plot points of popular TV shows? No, but here we are.  I actually think this is a very minor point in the series – it’s one which is literally available in the Netflix descriptions of the show – and, as such, as much ado about nothing.  Alas, the internet is a sensitive place, and caution is always the preferable strategy.

Is this really that big of a deal?  Would love to hear your thoughts – let us know in the comments!

Ben Carson aide in trouble for inappropriate tweets

Last week, I wrote about Liz Mair, the former consultant for Governor Scott Walker who was had to resign after tweets which insulted the Iowa Caucuses and voters came out.  A few weeks before that, it was Ethan Czahor, who had been hired by former Governor Jeb Bush’s campaign, only to be forced to resign after a series of offensive tweets he made became public.

This week, we have a new political staffer who made the same mistake.  This one comes courtesy of Jim Dornan, a staffer for Ben Carson’s presidential campaign.  As noted by Buzzfeed, Dornan made a series of crude tweets about the President, among other offensive tweets.  Samples include:

  • @hardball_chris I’m looking forward to McConnell shoving his fist up Obama’s ass. Although, he will, no doubt, like it. #tcot
  • Thugs will be thugs. #Ferguson
  • The only chickenshit in the Middle East crap is the dipshit in the WH. @BarackObama #tcot #Israel #Bibi #Netanyahu #Midterms2014 #Obama
  • @BarackObama Bend over, bitch. Castro’s driving. #tcot
  • @StephenKing Ur a pretty sick fuck. We know that. Now you’re an asshole too? Immorality and Stupidity make Stephen a dull boy
  • Why did I expect anything from Obama but whining and bitching?

There are far more, and you can check out the Buzzfeed article to read the rest.

As for Dornan’s reaction?


He deleted his Twitter account and has had no comment on the issue as of yet.

The Carson campaign, however, acknowledged the problem, with a campaign spokesperson saying, “I do see the issue associated with his Twitter.”  At the same time, they sought to disassociate the campaign from Dornan, calling him a “volunteer.”

Attention political staffers: STOP IT.  STOP IT NOW.  Clearly the timing of the tweets doesn’t matter – in many of these cases, the tweets were sent months or years before the formal association of this staff with any campaign.  The lesson here for political operatives – and people in general – is that you should never say anything on social media which may come back to haunt you later.