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In past posts, I’ve blogged about how to present yourself and/or your brand to the public as a whole. Now that I’ve focused on the masses, it’s time to address the individuals. In the past month, a professional athlete, a clothing brand, and a pop singer have gotten themselves into trouble because interactions with individual fans ended in trouble on a mass level. In late April, former NBA Shaquille O’Neal mocked a fan’s selfie on Instagram. The fan, Jahmel Binion, has a rare disorder, Ectodermal Dysplasia, which causes him to have abnormal hair growth and missing teeth ( http://nypost.com/2014/04/28/shaq-under-fire-for-mocking-disabled-fans-selfie/). Binion’s story ended up in the local news of his area, Detroit, as well as making national news. This attention meant that O’Neal’s actions came under scrutiny and he removed the photo after issuing a personal apology to Binion. (http://nypost.com/2014/04/30/shaq-apologizes-for-mocking-disabled-fans-selfie/) Later in early May, Black Milk Clothing decided to post a funny picture on their Facebook page to celebrate the pop culture reference on May 4th. http://www.buzzfeed.com/alyssajayne/how-not-to-use-social-media-101-pgg2 (A quick note of explanation for those who don’t know, May 4th has come to mean a play on words from the Star Wars phrase, “May the Force be With You” to ‘May the 4th be with you.’) The image offended many of their fans for two reasons: (1) it appears to give preferential ranking to one type of look over the other type of look; and (2) it contradicts two of the brand’s commandments, which are as follows, you shall be excellent to one another and you shall not make critical comments on other women’s bodies. Many customers voiced their criticisms on the fan page. Instead of just deleting the image and issuing an apology, Black Milk Clothing dug an even deeper black and milky hole by deleting critical comments or by responding with condescending remarks. In addition, they also started telling fans to feel free to stop buying their merchandise and unlike their page if the picture upset them that much. Not surprisingly, the fan conversation moved away from the poorly chosen image to criticizing the brand for poorly handling the situation. The company chose to ban fans from the page, which lead to complaints spilling over onto Twitter. Over 24 hours later, Black Milk Clothing deleted the picture and issued a statement, but it was not an apology. Two days later, Cameron Parker, the head of sales and marketing, finally issued an apology. The whole two-day fiasco has cost Black Milk Clothing thousands of fans on Facebook. Lastly, there is one more incident from Rihanna. In mid-May, Rihanna mocked a 16-year-old girl on Twitter for posting pictures that featured an outfit very similar to one of Rihanna’s. The girl, Alexis Carter had a family friend make the outfit as a tribute to what Rihanna wore at a 2010 event, except that Rihanna’s outfit was green while Carter’s outfit was black. Using this, Rihanna mocked Carter for looking like a bat in two Twitter posts. RiRi’s fans followed in the mocking. The story was featured on both national news as well as on Baltimore’s local news affiliates, where Carter resides. Needless to say, Carter is no longer a Rihanna fan. http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2014/05/15/rihanna-mocks-16-year-old-fan-for-copycat-prom-outfit/ While the obvious moral to all three of these incidents is to be mindful of how you interact with fans/clients on social media, there is more than meets the eye. As I blog about all of these incidents, I realize that there is more commonality than lack of respect for individual fans. All three of the incidents revolved around mocking how people look. It’s best never to mock or criticize how people look. One thing to learn is if showing humor is on your brand’s social media profile, then try to be more Ellen DeGeneres than Joan Rivers. If you do make a mistake, handle it like Shaq did, delete the post quickly and apologize personally. If Black Milk Clothing and Rihanna had done that, they would’ve kept more fans and their reputation. Finally, act as if the local or national media are always watching you. As Shaq, Black Milk Clothing, and Rihanna can testify, you never know when you a local error will end up in the national media spotlight.