Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Stop Apologizing — 8 Social Media Rules CEOs Should Know

Airbnb’s Instagram failure teaches us once again, be political but do it on your own time.

social mediaThe five stages of social media grief are rant, press send, deny, excuse, apologize. To save time, we might want to apologize first.

You will see this happening with the latest viral meme going around, a post by @Airbnb’s global communications director, Kim Kingsley.

Kingsley was attending a party for colleagues on the San Francisco pier, and someone took an artful photo of the group, which she posted on Instagram. For reasons she now regrets (her Instagram account is now locked), she juxtaposed the image of revel-making pranksters with two young children in an immigrant detention center, with the caption: “…that night I fell in love with new colleagues while children 2,000 miles away were being detained in

The intent of the message was sympathetic, to be sure. But on social media, where the concept of love has been reduced to a swipe right or left, asking for deep introspection is a bit naive. The media predictably reacted to the image as insulting, craven, and very millennial.

The New York Post called it a “communication blunder of global proportion” while Fox News sniffed, a total “Air-head move.” When the Post’s writer, Oli Coleman, first saw Kingsley’s post, the only word he could think of was “cringe-worthy.”

Kingsley is no wet behind the ears neophyte when it comes to media. She was COO of Politico before joining the shared rental company. If she can make a faux pas of this magnitude, so can I or you or someone we just hired to handle global communications.

One thought to keep in mind before hitting the send button is that those who agree with you aren’t going to buy the product because of the post. But those who disagree will use the company as leverage to get back at you and the company.

For example, Airbnb is fighting a heated political war on its soft underbelly, the part about stealing jobs from blue-collar hotel labor workers. Labor unions are taking direct aim at Airbnb’s wealthy founders, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, among the richest billionaires in the world looking at a 50 billion dollar IPO on the horizon. The union efforts have been effective in cities like New York and most recently, according to theNew York Times, the resort island off Spain of Majorca.

This underscores that even our most successful organizations are vulnerable to mass hysteria and anti-business trolling. Those are the modern digital enemies who wait for moments like this to pounce.

Viral memes from unauthorized social media outbursts only make them more powerful. We need to follow some common-sense rules when it comes to voicing our political opinions. Here are eight that come to mind:

8 Rules for Corporate Communicators

  1. Social media is a haiku.If you have a complicated point to make, don’t post on Instagram, write an essay like they do at Google.
  2. “La compagnie n’est pas toi” (to paraphrase Louis IV). The company is not you, unless your name is on the front of the building.
  3. If you blow up, don’t double down: When wrong, admit it and move on.
  4. If you’re not a politician, stay away from politics. I served on a board that had a former Mayor on it, and we let him do all the politicking. He was a pro, we were amateurs.
  5. Don’t hit “send.” It is the most dangerous button after the nuclear button on President Trump’s desk.
  6. Unless you are North Korean, you are a capitalist. Don’t act like your main objective in life is saving humanity if you make money renting spare rooms to tenants.
  7. Virtue doesn’t look good in Pradas. Unless you are a celebrity, social justice ranting is going to look strange coming from you.
  8. Shut up: No one ever complained about a post you didn’t write.

RelatedManaging Corporate Reputation: ‘It’s All About Responding to Feedback,’ One Expert Says


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.