The Meme Season: Twittering Nabobs of Negativism

Lucky for Spiro T. Agnew, he did not live in the age of the Internet Meme. That’s not to say he wasn’t able to fail just as spectacularly at the hands of old media.

In fact, the history of epic fails begins long before even when old media were new.  It is replete with wars gone wrong, products that bombed, and politics most foul. And when something fails utterly, it often becomes part of the lexicon:

  • The Battle of Waterloo
  • Edsel
  • New Coke
  • Watergate

It could be argued that collectively we have met our social media Waterloo in our endless desire to promote our milestones, our accomplishments, our hobbies, our travel, our ideal mate, and our adorable cats via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, LinkedIn, Tinder, Tumblr, and YouTube.

As we continually up the ante with posts designed to brag, promote, and burnish our individual and our business reputations, we run the risk of crossing a personal Rubicon. Bill Cosby being the latest object lesson.

Last month, when Cosby’s PR team decided to have some fun with the comedian’s social media image – and perhaps make him a trending topic – by posting his photo on Twitter and urging followers to “make me a meme,” they were stunned at the almost instant negative response.

Dozens of allegations that Cosby was a rapist, plus a link to comedian Hannibal Buress’s recent rant about Cosby’s past, forced Cosby’s team to take down the Twitter feed. And, as we well know, the controversy has raged ever since, resulting in Cosby being dropped from NBC and Netflix projects and resigning from his alma mater’s board of trustees.

Most of us won’t try to turn our public persona into a meme by trying to spread our image and personality across the Internet. But, the temptation to promote businesses or services via the meme/hashtag/viral video route is strong.

Show me a PR professional who hasn’t had a client say, “I want our video to go viral,” and I’ll show you one who doesn’t have any clients. It’s a “careful what you wish for” desire.

Who wouldn’t want their roast beast recipe or their reindeer-neutering how-to video to become trending topics – to be featured on CNN, Jimmy Kimmel, and Taylor Swift’s Twitter feed?

Yet… something rarely goes viral by force, and you run the risk of the scheme backfiring. I’m talking about you NYPD, I’m A Mets Fan, and – yep –Dallas CowboysUK.

It’s best to have your creative team focus on your business’s strengths – maybe even produce a clever, well-made video – and use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, et al to tell that story.

It might not be sexy, it might not go viral, it might not trend, but chances are it will shield your business and you from the twittering nabobs of negativism.

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