Personally, I've never heard Vice President Joe Biden described as a great orator. So, I expected him to be excoriated after his speech at last week's Democratic National Convention (DNC), like he always is. What I didn't expect was the feeding frenzy that took place on Twitter during his speech and following its conclusion.
It seems that Biden, as he's been known to do, went off script and used the word "literally" nine times in his 40 minute speech. Apparently, that was enough times for Alexandra Petri of The Washington Post to pen an entire article about his use of the word. Apparently, it was also enough times that the hashtag #literally trended on Twitter, and people relentlessly began mocking the VP's faux-pas.
Even President Obama's team got in on the funfest and purchased an ad on the search term "literally," so when users went looking for tweets about the Vice President, they would now see a promoted tweet from @BarackObama.
It's not unusual for a Biden speech to produce a rash of one-liners for the late-night comedians to use in their monologues and this speech was no different. His ad-libbing produced lines like this one: "In the first days, literally the first days that we took office, General Motors and Chrysler were literally on the verge of liquidation."
He said, "The American people who literally stood on the brink of a new depression." Ms. Petri writes, "Literally in many cases did not mean what he seemed to think it meant - you do not literally have the future in your hands, unless everyone else has done a lot more acid/is a far better theoretical physicist than I can hope to catch up with."
I'm not sure Vice President Biden's use, or overuse, of the word "literally" required the attention it received, but that's not really the point. The point is that in today's world our politicians, our business leaders, "literally" everyone who takes a stage pretty much anywhere, is open to the scrutiny of those using social media. It's a powerful tool.
Maybe we should add it to the list or reasons good people don't run for office or seek even local leadership positions. They don't want to be skewered on social media networks. On the other hand, Maybe Vice President Biden should have just stuck to the speech his speech writers wrote. And, maybe Clint Eastwood should have written a speech and stuck to it himself the week before at the Republican National Convention (RNC). Eastwood too could have avoided the wrath of social media with a little pre-planning.
I think there are some lessons in these examples for us all. Frankly, it's good for my business when things like this happen. People see what I mean whe I tell them we work to, "Enhance your online image and protect your reputation." I suppose I should be thaking Biden, Eastwood and the Twitterverse, while applauding Ms. Petri and The Washington Post for bringing it to our attention.