Going viral on social media can have real life consequences

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - "Going viral" -- it's a phrase we hear a lot these days -- but as good as social media is for people and businesses to connect with one another, it can also have a really big impact on your life and your livelihood.

"United Airlines" lost more than $250 million dollars in market value the day after a video of a passenger being dragged off a flight went viral and while social media has many pros when it comes to sharing content, experts say sometimes you have to realize the whole world is watching.

Videos like the one Ehab Jaber posted to Facebook, brandishing multiple guns, including an assault rifle, while saying people should, "be scared" and "be [expletive] terrified," have real life consequences. Jaber was arrested last week for making a "terroristic" threat.

"People just generally have to be smart about what they're putting out there and take the time to understand the privacy settings, because once something bad gets out there, you can't unring that bell," said Chris Prendergast, the operations vice president at Clickrain.

Sometimes, there's not much you can do to prevent a situation from escalating, like in the case of Dr. David Dao, the passenger who was dragged off a United Airlines flight for not giving up his seat. That video was bound to make the rounds when multiple passengers pulled out their phones and began recording. So when bad goes to worse ...

"Some larger companies will put together a whole campaign on social media that they hope they never have to use just in case something goes wrong," Prendergast said.

But sometimes having that action plan isn't enough.

"I think some of the worst examples we've seen lately from businesses, that the wrong person was the first one to respond," Prendergast explained. "And they haven't thought through, 'What's the appropriate message to be sending?'"

Because once the video, advertisement, tweet, or photo is out there, you can't take it back.

"Probably the biggest mistake we'll see companies make, is not being humble and not being apologetic, when that would be the best route to take," Prendergast explained. "These companies that just dig in and say, 'No, we're right, the customer's wrong,' and go on these rants."

But there are ways to prevent yourself from becoming a social media sensation or a viral disaster.

"It's kind of a personal choice for people, so there's no one exactly a right way to do it, but there are wrong ways to do it," Prendergast said.

"So people just need to kind of figure out for themselves, 'How public do I want to be?' and, 'What tone do I want to take as a public figure?' Because with social media, we're all in a sense, public figures now."

Prendergast said that while he teaches lots of college students about "personal branding" various times throughout the year, many colleges are actually offering courses on how to present yourself on social media, that are becoming pretty popular.

In an end to the United Airlines debacle, the company confirmed to KSFY News on Thursday that is has settled with Dr. David Dao, in a statement.

"We are pleased to report that United and Dr. Dao have reached an amicable resolution of the unfortunate incident that occurred aboard flight 3411. We look forward to implementing the improvements we have announced, which will put our customers at the center of everything we do," said Charles Hobart, a spokesman for the airline.