Social Media Lessons: Always On, Always Be Careful


If ever there was a cautionary tale on the dangers of using social media, it is the case of solution provider Tommy Jordan.

Unless you've been living in a cave, you know that Jordan is the father who posted a video of himself on YouTube using a gun to blast his daughter's laptop after the 15-year-old complained about her parents on Facebook. What some don't know is that Jordan is also the CEO of Twisted Networks, a Greenville, N.C.-based VAR and MSP that provides a full range of services surrounding network, telecom and security.

In an interview with CRN’s Scott Campbell, Jordan, whose YouTube video has been viewed more than 28 million times, said the incident has not hurt his business and he may in fact have gained a customer as a result of the notoriety.

Jordan told Campbell that Twisted Networks is a sub-$1-million company that cut back from six employees two years ago to two as the economy slowed IT spending. Jordan said business was starting to come around again, as other solution providers have reported, before the uproar over the video started.

But Jordan had noted in earlier e-mailed responses to questions from ABC Network (posted on his Web site, 8minutesoffame.com), that the incident has taken its toll on his family. The worst was an investigation by the state’s Children's Protective Services agency.

"Nothing we've gained is worth the stress this put on my wife and my kids thanks to CPS, so because of that alone, I'd NOT do it again."

In that same ABC Network dialogue, Jordan noted that he built his "company with a partner and absolutely no more investment capital than we had in our pockets the first day, and that might have been about twenty-bucks, and I have a customer retention rate that has never dropped below 95 percent, which is ridiculously unheard of in the IT world. AND I've survived the recession thus far while managing to keep my company open, so I'm doing something right."

Keeping a solution provider business going these days takes a lot of hard work and business acumen. We all must juggle personal and professional lives that are increasingly blurred in our 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week, always-on digital society. What is troubling is how quickly social media can do so much damage to a person's life or business. It's something for all of us to think about as we ponder the video’s aftermath.

Jordan himself said it best on hisWeb site in the ABC Network exchange:

"There are too many messages and lessons to be learned from this experience to list them all," he wrote. "We’ve been sitting here amongst ourselves and talking about finding some way to leverage the infamy and turn it to a good cause. That’s why we built the new web site. Eight minutes and twenty-three seconds of my life have forever impacted all of my family in ways we don’t even know yet, and won’t fully understand for a long time to come, but we feel there are a few salient messages that need to be understood.

In case it’s not obvious by now, ANYTHING you put on the internet can follow you around for the rest of your life! I’m living proof of that and so is my daughter.

You don’t have to give into the media to get your story told the way it needs to be told. Tell it yourself. Tell it in your words. Make people hear what YOU want to say, not what they want to print or air. The average person has an amazing amount of power at their fingertips, but it takes a little luck and a lot of restraint to make it work the way you want it to and to keep your story YOUR story, not someone else’s.

Everything that’s been published or written since that first post has made my stomach turn constantly. I feel like I’m grabbing an angry bull by the horns every time I make a statement or comment. You can be the best rodeo guy around, but eventually you can still get hurt regardless of how careful you are. Be careful with that. That’s all I’m saying."

Be careful. You can get hurt. That's directly from Jordan himself and as good a lesson as any to have come out of this. It's also something of an admission that the job of a solution provider is as much cultural as it is technical. Solution providers need to make sure that customers are aware of the dangers of technology as well as its benefits. That's something all of us should consider as well.