LinkedIn Flame War Pits Dell Against a Vendor
Marketers and vendors may be ready to recuperate brand reputations when employees go off script on social media, such as posting racist comments on Facebook and Instagram. But what if it’s the CEO? Starting a flame war on … wait for it … LinkedIn?
Michael Cadger, founder and CEO of Monocle Health Data, started a LinkedIn fight with Mandi Bishop, global healthcare analytics solutions and consulting practice lead at Dell. On June 26, she’d shared and commented on a Dilbert cartoon strip originally posted as a status update by Ilya Pozin, founder at Pluto TV.
Later that day, she authored a LinkedIn Pulse post about Cadger calling her a “misogynistic hater,” a young feminist techie and strongly suggesting that she was ageist. In turn, she accused Cadger of “social media bullying” and wrote this in her LinkedIn Pulse post: “This is what it is to be a woman expressing an opinion online that strikes a nerve.”
Her post, updated on June 28, notes that Cadger appears to have deleted his comments on her status update — which say he contacted Dell to get her fired and that he was smarter about healthcare IT than anyone commenting.
The whole incident brings up several questions, not the least of which is whether it’s smart for a CEO to start a fight on social media at all, let alone on a professional network.
“It happened this week, and it’s raising questions about what’s appropriate in the professional use of social media,” writes Neil Versel, health IT reporter at MedCity News, in his LinkedIn status update on Thursday. (Versel’s article headline seems to answer that queston: “How a Health IT CEO Shouldn’t Behave on Social Media.”)
In the case of LinkedIn, though, Cadger and Bishop’s quarrel — though she says she didn’t participate — has wider ramifications for them both. The professional networking site is now being integrated with Microsoft products, such as Outlook, and the back-and-forth comments may live on in several channels beyond social media.
So here’s what a LinkedIn flame war could do to a brand:
Fighting Could Make the Combatants Look Unprofessional
Marketers may be able to argue that on sites like Facebook and Instagram, employees’ comments on their personal accounts only reflect their own views. But it’s more difficult to argue that when the views are expressed on LinkedIn, where accountholders are supposed to be behaving as though they’re at work — or at least as though everyone from work can see what they’re doing.
Prospects May See the Flame War
It could make them think twice about doing business with the brand. In Cadger’s case, they may wonder why he was so offended by a cartoon. Is he out of touch? This doesn't just have to be about tech, which Cadger says he knows inside and out.
In Bishop’s case, what she terms bullying may have worked in her favor — she got hundreds of new LinkedIn followers and press attention out of it. Prospects may think she’s a smart marketer who, as Jack Lamb of SADA Systems comments: “Now that's what I call making sweet lemonade from bitter lemons.”
Possible Business Partners May See the Flame War
Unstable much? Leaders of other companies may think so of Cadger. If Lamb is any indication, Bishop came out of the flame war burnished and sparkling.
The flame war could result in positive or negative feelings about working with your brand. Some social media fights could make all parties look bad.
Versel quotes advice that perhaps both parties could’ve kept their comments private. Maybe through, for instance, InMail?
What do you think, marketers?
Please respond in the comments section below.
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