You ever want to break your own brand? Do what Horizon Realty in Chicago did and sue your customers.
According to the Chicago Sun Times, here, twitter user @abonnen (now offline) tweeted “Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it’s okay.”
So, because they feel this is wrong, they’re suing her for $50,000 USD.
Let’s examine a few of the many reasons this is just flat out stupid.
The Streisand Effect: A few years ago, someone put an areal shot of Barbara Streisand’s house on their website. Streisand, citing privacy concerns, demanded at law-point it be removed. The result was not that the image disappeared, instead, so many people posted it on their own pages that the image will never disappear. Now, the Streisand effect is what we on the web call something that has the complete opposite of itself. This realty company hoped to prevent bad press. Now, it’s all they’re ever going to get.
Inappropriate Venue: Like it or not, the things you do in social media affect your real life. @abonnen voiced a concern about her building in the wrong place. What hasn’t come out is whether or not she went to her landlord with this concern first. If yes, and Horizon did nothing for her, then yeah, they deserve every ounce of bad press they get, because mold is a serious health concern. If she didn’t, then they deserve compensation because she’s bashed them (legitimately or not, I’m not arguing) publicly, without ever seeking a private solution to her problem.
Not an Appropriate Response: Does Horizon deserve $50k for a tweet that about 20 people would have read when it first came out? I don’t think so. Even less now that they’ve made a fool of themselves by suing @abonnen – at the end of the day, the press from their reaction will get them even more trouble than the original tweet will – and, according to the Sun Times, Horizon hasn’t even asked that the tweet be removed. @abonnen deleted her account, but the tweet was still in the public timeline when last I looked, and the blogosphere has exploded with reactions in every direction to this.
No-Win: Like it or not, @abonnen is going to have a hard time renting an apartment for a while, and Horizon Realty is going to have a very hard time finding new renters for their apartments as well. Horizon has broken their brand by sinking to incredible stupidity and letting their representative, Jeffrey Michal, be quoted as saying they’re a “sue first ask questions later” company in a now-national debate.
How can we prevent this in the future? Stop paying so much attention to bullwe find on the web. Recently people have been fired, have failed to be hired, marriages have ended, and eventually I’m sure wars will be started because of something someone said on social networking sites without paying attention. Who cares? Seriously. Thanks to this, businesses cannot operate efficiently, and your average person has to spend even more time censoring themselves needlessly instead of being productive and feeling good about using services like MySpace and Facebook. It’s hard enough already. This just makes it harder. You’re doing it wrong.