A Mistake In Authenticity

By Elizabeth Twietmeyer

This above all:
To thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

– Hamlet, Shakespeare

Great words from Shakespeare on the ideas of authenticity. Along with Shakespeare, our book and class lecture gave us excellent information on how to be authentic on social media. As  I went on to further research authenticity for the blog I ran into an article from Social Media Today that gave four tips for authenticity. Here they are:

1. Make It Personal

2. Avoid Scripts and Schedules

3. Never Use Tragedies

4. Be Creative

Social Media Today Link

When I saw the third tip, “Never Use Tragedies” alarm sounds went off in my head at an example of this type of situation. Last September, AT&T tweeted a photo of their smartphone with a superimposed image of the Tribute of Light on the screen. (cover image) At first glance this might seem like a heart felt tweet remembering a terrible day in our nation’s history. However, viewers of this tweet did not appreciate it and felt it to be not authentic. It seemed as if AT&T had used a tragedy to try to make a sell for one of their phones. Just like the article from Social Media Today states, “Speaking of national tragedies, it is never a good idea to use them for your own benefit. This strategy rarely (if ever) fools customers, particularly those in the area affected by the tragedy.”

AT&T and the CEO quickly released an apology for the tweet. “Yesterday, we did a post on social media intended to honor those impacted by the events of 9/11,” he writes. “Unfortunately, the image used in the post fell woefully short of honoring the lives lost on that tragic day,”  said CEO Randall Stephenson. This is a great tie in to our chapter 6 in that you should respond quickly to all bad comments. AT&T Apology

Overall this AT&T 9/11 tweet is an excellent learning tool for the company and for us as a class to remember times when our desires to be authentic (and possibly sell our product) should be put aside to simply remember a tragedy.

Image Courtesy of proactiontranshuman.wordpress.com


  1. I think the difference between social media and mass media is very crucial; Newspapers and magazines use conflict to sell their products, but advertisers using the tragedies as a marketable resource simply isn’t right (especially since they are using peoples emotions to sell products that are otherwise unrelated). Using emotion to capture an audience isn’t anything new, but I think businesses need to think about who their message could affect, and think about that when marketing their products. Good post! Very interesting topic.

  2. This might be a little of topic, but I think starting off your blog post with a quote from Shakespeare was a very creative and strategic way to introduce your topic of focus! It’s definitely very “catching” and is a nice transition in to your main points. Although Shakespeare didn’t specifically use the word “authenticity,” I think it goes to show how long the idea of it has been around. The idea of being truthful and being yourself has been an important topic for quite a long time.

  3. I also think tragedy is a two way street for marketers. As the AT&T add showcased, it was received with negativity. I have never seen this image and I’m curious to see if there was something said attributing the lives lost or if it was posted on an anniversary. I think that if they did a tribute without the phone in the picture it would have been received better- people can tell they were trying selling a phone- and AT&T would have probably got more positive feedback from customers.

  4. I have mixed feelings about advertising using tragedies. Yes people were angry and the company did a great job acting fast with a public apology. However, I feel like it was a great idea to honor those affected by the day, and a lot of people overreact to anything to do with large tragedies. It seems like the people that become outraged by these things are the people the people that are always raising hell about something. They go looking for stuff to publicly complain about, thus they only see things one way……. the negative light. So something that isn’t really too bad is blown out of proportion. But it is important to avoid those situations and to know how to deal with them if you ever find your company in them.

  5. I think that using tragedy to market your product can go both ways. If you were a victim of 9/11 and lost a family member you might take it as uplifting, as they are not forgotten and we still care. On the other hand, like the post above you could take it in a negative way thinking it was unsympathetic and wrong of the company to do so.

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