Social Media Bully Pulpit

cyberbullyingSocial Media Bully Pulpit


Activist Investor Carl Icahn recently boosted his investment in Apple stock and urged the company to use some of its $147 billion in cash for a stock buy back. A move that could potentially double the company’s $525 stock price. Bill Gross, founder and managing director of the Pacific Investment Management Co. (PIMCO) suggested, via PIMCO’s Twitter feed, that Icahn should focus his attention on charity rather than boosting his already considerable wealth.  Icahn responded by suggesting Gross join him in taking the Giving Pledge has he had done.  Gross later responded that he and his wife were taking the “Andrew Carnegie” pledge of giving away all their wealth before they die.

Here’s how it played out on Twitter:

The Point 

I am unable to find evidence that Bill Gross publicly took the Andrew Carnegie pledge before this tit for tat on Twitter.  Perhaps he had made the pledge privately but never made it publicly.  Of course there is the possibility that Gross was forced, or at least hurried, into acknowledging his plans for his considerable fortune.

The point is, it seems PIMCO got into a “Twitter Charity Brawl” for no good reason.  Neither party won in this back and forth.  Icahn comes across as a “charity bully” for calling Gross out and Gross looks like a bully for originally attacking Icahn. Even though Gross made a very large donation to charity, he get’s no points because for the pledge because he made it defensively. Why did PIMCO’s PR team allow this to happen?

Social Media Take-Aways

What can social media managers take away from this affair? Here’s some ideas.  Add your ideas in the comments:

  1. Have a plan for your social media spokespersons
    1. What are the topics they talk about?
    2. What are the topics they won’t touch?
    3. What are the escalation procedures when things go awry?
    4. What is the tone/tenor of your social spokesperson?
  2. Consider creating separate social media channels for spokespersons. This allows them to have personal views and behaviors that are *somewhat* distinct from the brand.
  3. Never forget social media is a public forum – if your  spokesperson would start an argument in a conference room full of reporters, then fine, it makes sense to do it on Twitter too.  Otherwise don’t forget that social media is a public forum full of individuals with their own agendas.
  4. Social Media works best when it’s SOCIAL – not Anti-social.  Being a bully on social media tends to back fire. People don’t like jerks.


Photo Credit - Pimkie Fotos

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