The power of social media was on full display during the first round of the NFL draft last night.
Laremy Tunsil, an offensive tackle from the University of Mississippi (‘Ole Miss) was projected to be one of the top picks in the draft and the first offensive tackle taken. But as the draft began, someone hacked Tunsil’s Twitter account and posted a video of Tunsil apparently smoking drugs out of a gas-mask bong. NFL teams, which closely monitor social media, knew about the post almost instantaneously, and, despite the account being deactivated shortly after the post, the video immediately went viral and was posted to Twitter, YouTube and other websites. Tunsil’s draft stock began to drop. Indeed, the Baltimore Ravens, whom many expected to draft Tunsil, were reported to have taken Tunsil completely off their draft board – meaning that they would not draft him no matter the circumstances. Tunsil was eventually selected 13th by the Miami Dolphins. The slide reportedly cost him anywhere from $7-10 million or more.
But Tunsil’s trouble did not stop there. Shortly after he was picked, and as he was heading to speak to reporters at the draft, someone hacked his Instagram account and posted alleged text messages between Tunsil and coaches at Mississippi that appeared to show him taking money. That action, if true, would be an NCAA rules violation by the school. Immediately Mississippi was embroiled in a social media mess, and has not yet commented.
While people can differ over whether Tunsil’s apparent drug use or Mississippi allegedly paying Tunsil money should be major stories, or impact his draft status, no one can deny the power that social media had in making Laremy Tunsil and Mississippi major (negative) stories of the NFL draft. Businesses and individuals should take this as a reminder that their online reputation is important because others are always watching – even if not to the extreme of the NFL on draft night. It is important to protect your online brand through good, and legal, controls on your (and if you are a business, your employees’) use of social media. Further, you have to be prepared to respond to any attacks on your brand quickly in an appropriate and productive way. How you respond can either diffuse the situation or fan the flames causing the issue to escalate and be noticed by a larger audience.