We all face a moral dilemma at this juncture in history. If you know how to get people’s attention and gain a following, but you also know that to do so is to contribute to the decline of the American Empire (not to be confused with the Roman Empire, which managed to destroy itself without the assistance of Twitter and Facebook), how do you behave? What is your obligation to your fellow countryman?
– Christine Merser, Founder, Blue2 Media
At the time this screenshot was taken, the tweet had been online for twelve hours and had 151 retweets and 919 likes. Fast forward one more hour, and the number of likes had risen by another one hundred, and the retweets were up another ten. The retweets were responsible for the new likes; the original post had long since passed through my followers’ feeds, but every time someone retweeted it, the tweet was refreshed as if it were just posted. This went on for another twenty-four hours, which launched this tweet’s reach into the hundreds of thousands.
One tweet from little old me—whose circle on Twitter only included 242 kind followers, most of whom were friends—was able to reach more than 878,000 readers, according to a Twitter stats report. How did it happen?
Well, in large part it was because of Rosie O’Donnell. I met Rosie when Blue Shoe Strategy was doing the promotion for India’s Daughter, a powerful documentary about the gang rape and murder of Jyoti Singh in India in 2012. There were a number of showings held around New York City; at most of them, a celebrity attended to either lead a panel, interview the director, or just talk about their support for the film as it became an Awards Season contender.
Meryl Streep, Susan Sarandon, and Katie Couric all made appearances, but the one person who showed up the most prepared was Rosie O'Donnell. The one who asked the most compelling questions—and follow-ups—was Rosie. The one who really “felt” the film was Rosie. I was absolutely bowled over by the commitment I saw in her at the screening, and was impressed by how much more “present” she was than any of the other celebrities in attendance. I began following her on Twitter, and she actually started following me as well, though she never engaged with anything I posted.
I tagged her in this post of mine, in which I called on the Russians to hack Trump’s SAT scores and publish them for the benefit of the American people. It was a clever post, if I may say so myself, mirroring Trump’s call for the Russians to hack and publish Hillary’s emails. But I’ll be the first one to admit that the post itself has zero value. It’s important that I say that loud and clear: the post, which hundreds of thousands of people have engaged with, had and has no value.
Why did I tag Rosie? I thought it might legitimize my clever tweet. At the time of posting, I also sent Rosie another tweet reminding her who I was, to refresh her memory. Rosie liked my post about Trump and retweeted it. She also commented on India’s Daughter, asked for an update, and commented on the update as well. She did not retweet that tweet, though this tweet actually did contain value. It included an article about how the men accused of killing Jyoti had lost their last appeal and would be put to death. It contained important information that showed real growth around women’s issues in India.
So, here I am, years later, still pondering the dilemma and my responsibility in this historical moment, when fake news and clickbait continue to lure us into self-destruction. My Trump tweet fueled the fires of hatred toward a man who has given new and unwelcome meaning to “speaking your truth.” It was a shiny, “clever” object (Blue Shoe’s own Frances described it as such)—but in my opinion, it was a waste of the time belonging to anyone who read it. It had zero value. It moved no one in any way toward accomplishing anything.
But this situation does offer me something on a personal level. I am increasing my commitment to my own writing and trying to be heard more. I know how to get your attention—I’ve just demonstrated how. Do I lean into the marketing value of worthless, possibly damaging rhetoric in order to find a following, and then justify my recklessness by sprinkling in content that I think is worth your time? Or do I stick to my guns and my loyal following of 242 people, and ignore the possibility of attaining and harnessing Twitter fame?
I have made my decision, and have shut down my Twitter account. I have chosen sleeping well at night over expanding my personal brand’s reach at the expense of my core values. If you ask me, Elon Musk is nothing but a pathetic Robin to Trump’s atrocious Batman. For me, this choice is not about politics—it’s about values.
This is a pivotal moment in history. Will we soon be destroyed by the steady drift toward shiny-object discourse, which leaves less and less room in our days for substantive, thought-provoking communication? If this trend really is so dangerous (and I believe it is), how can we avoid participating in it while still putting out messaging that works in today’s communications landscape? While our strategies will have to evolve, Blue 2 Media, launching next month, has a clear line in the sand that we will not cross in our efforts to win for your brand and your future.
I believe that each of Blue Shoe’s clients over the past decades has stood alongside one another, filling their toolboxes with the lessons we’ve all learned and the strategies we’ve picked up in order to get things sold. What a great time of reflection this month has been for us to celebrate everyone we have worked with, and what you have built for yourselves. A moment of thanks today to you all.
And I would also take a moment to encourage you to consider where your own line in the sand will be.
This article is part of our series around our thirty years in business. August has us looking back … and planning for our new Blue2 Media launch in September.
We would love to hear your thoughts.