Social Media: The Next Frontier for Yellow Journalism Embroils Chick-Fil-A, Ford and Celeb Boutique
In 1897, Fredric Remington was sent to Cuba to cover the Spanish-American war. His boss, William Randolph Hearst, planned to use the war to increase circulation and grow his newspaper empire. After assessing the situation, Remington reportedly requested to return home by cabling "there will be no war." Hearst responded, "You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war." The sensationalized stories that followed have been recognized as the peak of yellow journalism.
That was before social media. Hearst, who had no fear of stretching the truth to its breaking point, would likely shake his head in amazement if he could see what happens in the social channel these days. Sensationalizing stories to increase circulation has been replaced with controversy-stoking fires designed to increase page views and clicks. Truth in commentary is optional.
Yellow journalism, the practice of presenting biased opinion as fact in a sensationalized manner, affects more than website traffic and print circulation. It can be used to alter brand image by manipulating social platforms, search engines, and traditional news outlets. If the company doesn't respond or responds poorly, the results can be long lasting and lethal.
When Celeb Boutique tweeted "#Aurora is trending, clearly about our Kim K inspired #Aurora dress " with a link to the sales page, it set off a firestorm of tweets and blog posts about the company's insensitivity. It wasn't long before the activity gained wider exposure with journalists for traditional news outlets covering the social media faux pas.
Tweets normally have a short life span. They disappear in a few days usually taking the drama with them. Celeb Boutique wasn't the first business to post a misguided tweet but the company is paying a higher price than its predecessors. Kenneth Cole had a similar experience during the revolution in Cairo. After an apology and a few days of drama, things returned to business as usual. The drama for Celeb Boutique disappeared a few days later but everyone who uses Google to find the company is exposed to the negative publicity. A search for Celeb Boutique delivers three positive links on the first page—the company's website, Twitter page, and Facebook page. There are seven links to negative posts about the misguided tweet.