If you thought one of the last people you’d be looking to as an example for how to run your social media accounts would be an ageing, muscle-bound professional wrestler, then you have most probably thought right.
Navigating the often tricky world of social media can require a deft appreciation of its many nuances in terms of meaning and etiquette. This can be doubly so in the 140-character per tweet hothouse that is Twitter, which is why we might spare just a little sympathy for the many troubles Terry Gene Bollea, better known as Hulk Hogan, has run into on the social media platform.
“Hulkster”, as his fans refer to him, has become a bit of a Twitter celebrity for all the wrong reasons. In fact, you could view his Twitter travails as a set of instructive examples on how not to use social media.
Judging by his long and successful career as a big star in the world of professional wrestling and his forays into movies and TV, Hulk Hogan appears to know his way around the entertainment business as well as the wrestling ring.
However, the skills he may have used to be successful in the old media world do not always necessarily translate to the digital media world of somewhere like Twitter.
Hogan’s most recent in a string of social media faux pas involved him retweeting a picture of British X Factor judge Cheryl Fernandez-Versini (formerly known as Cheryl Cole). A “fan” requested the retweet from Hogan under the ruse that the woman in the picture was the fan’s sister, who was suffering from HIV and was a massive fan of Hogan. The woman in the pic was actually Fernandez-Versini, who is not suffering from HIV.
In other words, a cruel piece of Twitter trolling.
Hogan has even been duped by Australian Twitter users. In September, just after the #Libspill that led to Malcolm Turnbull taking the prime ministership from Tony Abbott, Hogan was asked to tweet a message of support for the ousted PM:
“Yo Tony, keep ur head up, lean into the wind my brother, I know the deal,” Hogan tweeted, before he twigged to the fact he had once again been set up and deleted the tweet.
Before that episode, black English footballers had asked Hogan to retweet their sarcastic messages of support for him in the wake of a racism incident involving Hogan.
Of course, Hogan has become a big target for Twitter trolling following a scandal in which he was caught on a private sex tape using racist language. Enough said.
It doesn’t just take being caught using racist language on a sex tape to fall foul of social media pranksters and trolls. It comes with the territory on social media (especially Twitter) because as a user you are now open to interactions with all sorts of people, with all sorts of agendas – not all of them necessarily friendly to you.
This is actually something that is very important to remember, whether you are promoting your personal brand or a business brand, because the temptation might be to approach social media as you would TV, radio or print – as a one-way form of communication.
Social media is vastly different to traditional media, not least in that it is far less formal in tone and far more interactive. In addition to this, the various social media networks (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc) all have their own vernacular, tone and accepted codes of expression.
You have probably heard the Marshall McLuhan maxim, “The medium is the message.” As McLuhan goes on to say: “This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium – that is, of any extension of ourselves – result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.”
When McLuhan wrote this in 1964 he was obviously not talking about social media. But his words hold true for how we should think about social media as a medium which is “an extension of ourselves”, or our brand. And each medium, for example Twitter, demands the social media user becomes conversant with its language and norms in order to fit in and thrive in its version of society.
This might be seen as a daunting task for anyone stuck in the old media ways of thinking. But the reality for business leaders and brands in this day and age is that being digitally dumb and social media illiterate leaves you at the mercy of those who have mastered the medium and in danger of being sidelined from the conversation.
Fi Bendall is CEO of The Bendalls Group, a business that leads STRATEGY : ADVOCACY : MOBILE delivering the business acumen to drive effective positive results in a disruptive economy for the C-suite. Fi has recently won a Westpac/AFR 2015 100 Women of Influence award. See more at: http://www.bendalls.com.au/