Tony Robbins misquotes Gandhi, ignores the error and keeps on Tweeting

Not long ago I offered advice on dealing with social media mistakes.  Then I happened across this Tweet from Tony Robbins:

If you are one of the most famous speakers in the world,  it is probably a good idea to quote Gandhi.  Except this quote most likely isn’t from Gandhi.  In fact it first appeared in the book “Documentary History of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America” on page 53:

First they ignore you.  Then they ridicule you.  And then they attack you and want to burn you.  And then they build monuments to you.

Whoopsie.  So I did Mr. Robbins a favor and told him about his error (with my added commentary):

First reply to Tony Robbins on Twitter

And then this a day later:

I have sent Mr. Robbins several Tweets about this. So far he hasn’t responded. (Some of his followers are responding to me, however, asking about the source of the quote.)

To review, we have at least three social media faux pas, and one assumed one:

(1) Misquote one of the most influential people who ever lived (not so bad, because everyone makes mistakes.)

(2) Ignore people who identify the error (much bigger mistake.)

(3) Carry on without acknowledging or correcting the error (much, much bigger mistake.)

And the assumed fourth faux pas:

(4) Outsource your social media without understanding what you are trying to achieve (humongous mistake.)

In the grand scheme of things, I guess misquoting Gandhi isn’t going to harm his reputation.  But what happens when he, or his staff, sends an unintentionally controversial Tweet?  He will be held accountable, even if he didn’t actually say it!  This could harm his credibility and cost him money.

We can learn a lot from this episode:

(1) If you outsource your social media, you should trust the person speaking on your behalf.

(2) Periodically review your content to ensure consistency.

(3) If someone contacts you on social media, especially about a mistake, respond to them.

(4) If you make a mistake, own up to it.

(5) Nobody is immune in this social age, including Tony Robbins.  Even Bank of America had to back down because of Twitter.  Seriously.

(6) Think hard about using social media or you run the risk of harming your reputation.

(7) People are paying attention to what you say, a necessary consequence of being on social media.

As a side note: if I am wrong and Gandhi did say this, I will acknowledge my error, publicly apologize to Mr. Robbins and my social media community.  Until then, I’m still waiting.  And Tweeting.

PS:  In my initial Tweet to Mr. Robbins I wrongly stated the year was 1914.  The correct year is 1918.  Sorry about that, I will try to be more careful next time.

PPS:  See how that works?


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