Critics have blasted Kevin Hart and all those coming to his defense over homophobic comments that the comedian made between 2009 and 2011 on Twitter. The tweets resurfaced last week after it was announced that Hart would be the master of ceremonies at the 2019 Academy Awards. The 39-year-old actor initially refused to apologize for the controversial remarks, arguing in an Instagram video that he has since “evolved” and should not be held accountable for past mistakes. He, however, later issued a public apology on Twitter and stepped down from the hosting gig.
Since then, a number of prominent high-profile black comedians have rushed to Hart’s defense, including Tony Rock, Nick Cannon, and D.L. Hughley.
“So let me get this straight, a comedian tells a joke that offends people and refuses to apologize, and people want to know what I think of that,” said Hughley. The comic then went as far as to call a transgender woman who disagreed with his opinion a sexist slur.
Although Hughley and others argue that comedians are granted a creative license to use offensive language in the spirit of telling jokes, this truth remains the same: your past can, and likely will, come back to haunt you, especially in today’s digital landscape. As a result, this can tarnish your brand and cause you to miss out on endorsement deals and other opportunities.
Here are five ways to use social media effectively and avoid a branding crisis.
1. Present Your Best Self
Like in Hart’s case, how you present yourself online could be the deciding factor for whether or not an opportunity materializes into fruition. Even if you delete a controversial social media post, nothing on the internet is truly ever erased. So keep in mind that you never know who may have taken a screenshot of your post before you publicly undermine your job or a client, rant about a colleague or boss, or document yourself while under the influence.
2. Think Before You Tweet
Many people use social media as a platform to vent and express their grievances about life and its many upsets. Although it’s perfectly OK and normal to share your gripes with others online, sometimes it’s best to avoid posting in the heat of a moment, which can cause you to say something you’ll live to regret.
3. Be Authentic
People have a low tolerance for B.S. and can oftentimes sniff out those who front for the gram, i.e., that time Bow Wow was caught lying about flying around on a private jet. Hence, it’s imperative to be true to yourself when building your social media brand—just make sure it’s your best self, as stated in point No. 1.
4. Post With Intention
Social media platforms give you the ability to control what the world thinks of you and what you represent. Be sure that you’re creating an image that you can feel proud of and posting thoughts that don’t come with a shelf life.
5. What you wear on social media matters, too
According to author and Black Enterprise contributor Gayneté Jones:
Social media wardrobe choices are etched into the minds of viewers. Employers, potential clients, contractors, romantic interests, and other concerned parties usually seek to view your social media pages in the first instance, prior to meeting you in person or giving you a call to organize an important meeting. In a brief moment of scrolling through your page, viewers have obtained a solid impression of who you are and what they believe you represent.
Style expert, Perri Furbert adds, “Your wardrobe is a form of non-verbal communication and usually acts as a deciding interaction factor. People will, unfortunately, judge you based on what they see. It’s very important to express what you want to say to the world in your apparel.”