Made in the Shade - When Twitter Chats go bad (and how to keep them from being a risk)

Yesterday’s Twitter Chat with famed 50 Shades author E. L. James has several people asking whether Twitter chats are risky, or worth it.

The 50 Shades of Grey author briefly appeared online yesterday in a Twitter chat, where fans were encouraged to ask the author questions.

Twitter Chat with EL James has brands asking if twitter chats are risky.

James was slammed. The tone of the chat quickly went from shady to dark as detractors offered up snark and criticism in heaping doses. Tweet after tweet questioned her writing, her morality, her sense of social justice, and then some. The E.L. James Twitter Chat debacle was somewhat comically captured on BuzzFeed today

What surprises me is the fact that anyone is surprised that this happened. Most particularly her PR firm. They are either very good or very stupid.

The criticism of the book series and the author are nothing new. The critics have been an essential part of the series rise to fame. Controversy has always swirled around the author, the fans, the books.

An hour online to ask the author anything, with the cover of the internet to protect your true identity? This is bloody chumming in shark infested waters.

As a brand planning a Twitter Chat, there is no need to take note of what happened during yesterday’s E.L. James chat unless your topic, spokesperson, brand are one that already has a history of great controversy and debate. In this case, you should know what you are getting into.

I find it hard to believe that James didn’t know. I suspect that James didn’t care. When it comes to this book series, there has always been a no press is bad press approach to publicity of all sorts.

Still if you are worried, ask yourself the following before you schedule your next chat:

  • Are there groups of people dedicated to hating the brand, topic or personality attached to the chat?
  • Does the brand, topic or personality attached to the chat have a hard time appearing in public because of extreme popularity, unpopularity, or both?
  • Would a quick search of the brand, topic or personality attached to the chat reveal as many hate-based entries as like-based topics?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might want to think about other forms of social outreach and/or make a plan for what you’ll do if your chat goes dark. Or perhaps, you can plan to do very little, if like E.L. James, your brand is one of those that has learned the trick of getting made via controversy. In that case, go for it. Get made in the shade.