3 Lessons from Justin Timberlake’s Tweetgate

by / Thursday, 30 June 2016 / Published in Uncategorized

In the ubitquous world of social media, it only takes 15 seconds for a controversial post to go viral. Celebrities who share their controversial thoughts and opinions can find themselves on the receiving end of massive backlash on social media and in the middle of a media firestorm. Justin Timberlake found himself in this position on Sunday night during the BET Awards.

Like many people who watched the award show, Justin Timberlake was inspired by Jesse Williams Humanitarian Award speech. If you haven’t heard Jesse Williams’ speech, watch it here.  He tweeted his thoughts:

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A Twitter user responded to Justin’s tweet with this remark:


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And Justin responded to this comment by saying this:



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And things went left…waaaayyy left. Justin Timberlake got dragged on Twitter for his response. The blogs and mainstream media went wild posting piece after piece about the controversial tweet.


Justin Timberlake did not respond to this person’s comment well. As an artist and public figure, you have to be very careful when sharing or responding to controversial comments. Here are three lessons from Justin Timberlake’s Tweetgate.



Think Before You Post

Justin Timberlake did not use good judgment before he responded to that tweet. While you are entitled to your thoughts and opinions, you must use discretion when posting them on social media. Before you share your thoughts on controversial topics or comments, ask yourself “how will my comment impact my brand?” If you are going to be uncensored in sharing your opinions, be prepare to deal with the consequences. Some things do not require a response, which leads to my next point….


If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, Say Nothing at All

While Justin may not have bad intentions, his response was dismissive and condescending. The best response to that controversial tweet would have been no response at all. Celebrities receive thousands of mentions a day. Justin could have simply ignored the tweet. You do not have to engage in every conversation you are invited to on social media. If you don’t have anything nice to say, it is best to say nothing at all.

If you do decide to respond to controversial comments, refer to #1. Be mindful of the tone of your response. The tone of your response is more important on social media because the other person can neither hear your voice nor read your body language. A person can easily develop their own interpretation when reading your comments without physical context.


Admit when you are wrong

No one is perfect. We all make mistakes and may make offensive comments at times. If you happen to make an offensive remark, be humble and sincerely apologize. Apologize even if you did not have bad intentions. (Intent does not negate impact). While the initial backlash may be ugly, people are willing to forgive you if you genuinely apologize. After your apologize, be willing to learn from your mistakes.


Remember, everything you say and post on social media is a reflection of your brand. Always put your best foot forward.

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