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Taking Things Too Far with Social Media Blackmail

Posted by on July 31, 2009


You may have heard of a little incident that happened at Blogher recently, someone tried to blackmail George Smith Jr. into giving away a free pair of Crocs in order to avoid a negative blog post/press.  According to George, he was hanging out the Sheraton when a lady approached him, I won’t go through the details of the conversation but here’s the crux of what was said:

“Ya know, if you don’t give me shoes – I could totally write something bad about you on my blog.”

“Excuse me?” I asked – hoping she would laugh or give me some indication that she was just joking around. Nope…

“It’s just a pair of shoes. It’s a lot easier to give them to me than deal with the negative press I could make.”

So, how did George respond?

“I could pick up my phone here and get in contact with so many people and tell them what just happened that you would be afraid to go near your computer, let alone attempt to blog again.”

Right on George!

So what can we learn from this?

Transparency goes both ways.  We expect companies to be transparent with customers but we need to remember that customers also need to be transparent with companies.  If you want a company to engage in conversations with you and tell you what’s going on then you better expect to do the same thing.

When companies are threatened in such a way, they can do exactly what George did and take to social media to address issues directly.  In the the future I anticipate that we are going to see and more and more of this type of behavior and the companies that are involved in the social media space are going to be able to defend themselves.  The companies that aren’t involved in social media are going to have to deal with delayed responses and negative press until they can actually figure out how to deal with these types of situations.

Personally, I would have gotten her name and plastered her face and link to her site all across the web for the world to see.

A lot of companies are afraid to get involved in the social media space in fear of encountering similar situations mentioned above.  There are always going to be people out there that want to bring you down and there are always going to people out there that try to exploit you.  Social media isn’t a way to facilitate negativity, it’s away to prevent and address it.  We have to remember that negative press is going to happen regardless of whether or not we are in the social media space.

What’s your take on all of this?

  • joelnewcomer

    This type of problem is definitely here to stay and I can imagine that companies might need legal help specifically for these types of situations. In fact, there have already been a number of lawsuits specifically because of statements made via social media. However, the statement in your post that says “companies are afraid to get involved in the social media space” is disturbing to me… ignoring social media will never make it go away… this story should make companies want to get MORE involved, not less! Being active in social media is growing ever more important because of the need for awareness of what is being said about you and taking prompt action when something IS said, whether it is handling legitimate complaints or whether it is libel that needs to be handled legally. People such as the one referenced in your story DO hurt the reputation of the entirety of social media…it makes people question how often the information we receive through social media is false or inaccurate.

    • Legal is definitely going to play a big role here. Ignoring social media will definitely not make it go away but its situations like the one mentioned in the post that are scaring companies from getting involved in the space.

      There is always going to be the issue of false and inaccurate information, the great thing about social media thought is that it's not hard to find out the truth.

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