Twitter Q&A sessions, like reddit AMAs, are a wonderful tool for low-threshold access to celebrities. But they’re also risky, because it is in the nature of social media that initiating a conversation doesn’t mean you’re even remotely in control of the conversation. Brands are no strangers to their hashtag campaigns being hijacked. Robin Thicke has also gotten his fair share of hashtag gone wrong when his Twitter Q&A got hijacked by questions about his misogynist lyrics.
Fifty Shades of uh oh…
And just yesterday E. L. James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey had a similar experience when she partook in a Twitter Q&A session that was meant to promote the latest book in her series. Along with the harmless questions about her favourite song and her hobbies came a slew of questions and snarky comments calling her out on the rape and abuse portrayed in her books:
#AskELJames Which do you hate more
2) The English language
3) strong Independent women
4) All of the above
— Amelia 🐙 (@NouisTeacup) June 29, 2015
Sometimes Ana says no and Grey says BUT YES. That's rape. Sorry, that wasn't a question. #AskELJames
— Snark Squad (@Snark_Squad) June 29, 2015
Abuse victims called James out for giving women the dangerous idea that it is normal to be in an abusive relationship and for confusing abuse with BDSM:
— Catrin (@catrincooper) June 29, 2015
Others relished the idea that they could finally vent how much their literary senses had been offended by James’ writing:
— #BrattPack (@Devilswhyyy) June 29, 2015
#AskELJames Did you ever consider using a thesaurus, or did that sound too much like hard work?
— Amy (@scifisunsets) June 29, 2015
Some simply and elegantly combined the two issues:
Which do you hate more, women or the English language? #AskELJames
— eyeswideshut (@eyeswideshut75) June 29, 2015
Lesson: Don’t do a Q&A if people already dislike you
This isn’t the norm but it shows the powers and pitfalls of social media really well. In fact, a lot of the time Q&A sessions go smoothly, especially when it comes to authors. When Neil Gaiman took over the Edinburgh Book Fest Twitter account for a Q&A two years ago the session was perfectly civil, for example. Then again, Neil Gaiman is pretty accessible via social media channels and generally doesn’t elicit much internet rage. E. L. James, however, has been getting a lot of negative attention for her book “Fifty Shades of Grey” from the get-go.
Doing a Q&A doesn’t necessarily make sense for everyone and for some it’s downright inadvisable. Now, if only E. L. James’ PR people had been aware of this…
— Deb Bailey (@DebBC) June 29, 2015