Social media is fast becoming the ultimate social tie that binds us all together. Nearly everyone uses some form – if not multiple forms – of social media. Because of this near-universal love for this simple way to connect with people near and far, social media can be a great place to build your brand and elevate your reputation.
But what happens when the social media platforms themselves get into PR trouble? Well, as you will see in these examples, getting back in the good graces of your users can sometimes be easier said than done.
Is Twitter ever going to get past the allegations of harassment?
When it comes to online harassment, no social media platform gets tagged with that description more than Twitter. While the platform is great for getting quick messages out to friends and fans, the easy communication format also makes it dead simple to barrage someone with negative messages, drowning people with a constant deluge of mean tweets.
All through 2016, Twitter suffered from constant criticism for not doing enough to stop trolling, racism and even terroristic messages on its platform. Many stars posted their plans to avoid Twitter for the most part, and several journalists have kept an ongoing account of the worst incidences of harassment. Two higher profile exits from the platform include actress Leslie Jones in 2016 and singer Ed Sheeran in 2017.
Heading into 2017, Twitter promised it was taking steps to make things different. There were a few high-profile bans, most notably that of provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. But, overall, the user experience still includes rampant racist and xenophobic attacks. Recently, one enterprising European journalist went down to Twitter headquarters and chalked out mean tweets he’s received that, he says, Twitter has yet to do anything about.
Snapchat blackface enrages users
Then again, Twitter is not alone in consumer PR problems. Snapchat is known for photo filters, so it’s no surprise when the upload new options. One of these options allowed users to merge their faces with those of famous performers. Seems innocent enough … except when some saw the blending of users’ faces with singer Bob Marley as incidents of blackface.
Whether the slight was intended or not – and most agreed it was not – a very vocal minority created a PR fiasco for Snapchat. But then Snapchat doubled down. Instead of backing off the perceived racist filters, Snapchat introduced the “Asian” filter, which allowed users to give their pictures stereotypical “Asian” features.
Apparently learning nothing, Snapchat argued the slanted eyes, buck teeth, and yellow-hued skin tones were just “inspired by anime” and not meant to resemble the racist cartoon depictions of Asians that, judging by the reaction, pretty much everyone thought of when they first saw them.
To date, neither company has managed to get past these allegations of racism or harassment. While it’s a correlation and may not be a cause, there could be a connection between each platform’s stagnation relative to the steady growth of other social media sites or apps.
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.