Being a sports enthusiast and someone whose career revolves around social media, it’s rare that I get to combine these 2 passions. But when I heard that ESPN suspended sports writer Bill Simmons from using Twitter for 2 weeks due to his violation of the company’s social media policy, I knew I had to learn more about this story. By the way, I wrote about creating a social media policy for your company a few weeks ago, so check it out if you haven’t already.
Now, we all know that Twitter can be a double-edged sword for promoting your company. On one hand, it allows you to build relationships with your target audience by letting down your guard and showcasing your personality. On the other hand, Twitter opens up the door to the nasty possibility that you or an employee will cross the line by saying something that could damage your reputation.
This brings us to Bill Simmons. Simmons regularly writes for ESPN.com, and you can often find him getting interviewed on any number of ESPN TV shows or radio programs. He’s also very active on Twitter. In fact, he has over 1,000,000 followers.
Simmons’ Twitter troubles began when he sent out an angry Tweet directed at radio station WEEI, a partner of ESPN. Simmons’ Tweet read, “Hey WEEI: You were wrong, I did a Boston interview today. With your competition. Rather give them ratings over deceitful scumbags like you.” Needless to say, ESPN didn’t like one of their employees calling their partner “scumbags.”
Not long after this Tweet was sent out, ESPN suspended Simmons from using Twitter for 2 weeks. Editor-in-chief of ESPN.com Rob King commented on the suspension saying:
“We have internal guidelines designed to inform how we discuss the topic of sports media. These guidelines are important us, because they help maintain the credibility with which ESPN operates.
No one knows the guidelines better than Bill Simmons, and he customarily works within these standards. He also understands, as does everyone else at ESPN, that we regard these guidelines as being equally important when participating in social media.
While it’s unfortunate — and sometimes painful — that not everyone outside of ESPN chooses to play by such rules, we choose to hold ourselves to higher standards. Regardless of the provocation, Bill’s communication regarding WEEI fell short of those standards. So we’ve taken appropriate measures.”
Read King’s entire post On Tweeting Responsibly for more of his insight into the suspension.
So, all of this begs the question: How would you have handled the situation if you were an ESPN executive? Also, does your company have a social media policy? Share your thoughts in the replies.