Social media lessons from the “Ground Zero Mosque”

A small plot of land near the World Trade Center in New York City has been thrown into the spotlight recently. A Muslim organization called The Cordoba Initiative set out to build a mosque and community center in the space, which has gotten them wrapped up in a national political battle of epic proportions. Numerous politicians have spoken out against the project, leading its supporters to make charges of racism and breaches of freedom of speach and religion. According to a CNN poll, 70% of Americans are opposed to a new mosque being built in the shadows of the World Trade Center.

The issue is full of pitfalls — words like “bigot,” “racist” and “extremist” have been flying all week — but one could have easily been avoided. That is the organization’s social media debacle. The Cordoba project hired a New York based social media expert to run its Twitter feed. While his snarky Twitter messages might have been fine when his audience was a small group of New Yorkers, Oz Sultan’s approach to Twitter did little more than antagonize people and embarrass the group…and himself.