If you haven't heard about Horizon Realty just do a quick search on Google and you'll find a few interesting articles, like this post on Mashable. For a quick background, a former tenant of theirs, Amanda Bonnen, sent out a tweet about living in mold in one of their units. Horizon filed a lawsuit for $50,000 against Ms Bonnen. Now more facts are coming to light, but there is a bigger lesson to be learned here and not just that Social Media can come back to bite you.
Lesson 1: Know who has the power
When you wade into uncertain terrain, whether it be social media, bloggers, or even traditional media, it is crucial to understand just who exactly has the power. Today the power shift is clearly evident but not everyone gets it. That is why it is important that before waging any battles in public, whether you think you are right, you understand how the events can and might play out. Most likely, despite what you think, you are not holding all the cards.
Lesson 2: Don't bring a knife to a gunfight
Make sure that if you are going to bring out a topic that involves social media, you understand social media. Make sure that you are prepared to use the medium that is being discussed to your gain. Otherwise when you pull that knife and your opponent, real or not, unpacks a gun you are going to be a sitting duck.
As the Mashable post so aptly puts it:
We?re pretty sure Horizon Realty lost a lot more than $50,000 from this Twitter backlash. That's what you get when you utter quotes as ?We?re a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organization.?
Lesson 3: Get proper counsel
I am not talking about legal counsel. It is more important in this day in age that you have someone you can turn to to ask, “what should I know”. For larger organizations it is important that you have your marketing and PR team at the table. For smaller organizations it might be a social media consultant, a partner, or even just your summer intern. Whomever it is, make sure that you get a true understanding for what may take place, how you should respond, and what are the possible outcomes.
Communication is changing. What might have been a small local story a few years ago can become national fodder today. Make sure you have a complete understanding of what the road looks like before engaging in a public relations battle.