When Stars Get Negative on Social Media: ‘It’s a Careful Balancing Act’

“Filling a feed with negative posts, even for a brief time is a sure fire way of losing followers,” social media expert Richard Janes tells TheWrap

Social media has proven to be an incredible marketing tool for brands in the modern age, but its unregulated nature can sometimes prove to be a double-edged sword.

Online feuds are a dime a dozen, but things can get tricky even for the most professional of accounts if an actor throws shade against projects they’re associated with.

“In general, the rule with social media is positivity,” said Richard Janes, whose company GoGoGab pairs stars and sponsors for live chat sessions with fans during TV show broadcasts. “Filling a feed with negative posts, even for a brief time is a sure fire way of losing followers — unless of course you are being comical or extreme with your negative posts so they become entertaining.”

Such was the case with perhaps the most infamous case of stars run amock on social media. Charlie Sheen‘s very public and very outlandish feud with “Two and a Half Men” showrunner Chuck Lorre ultimately got the actor fired from the show, but it didn’t turn out all bad for either party.

“[Sheen was] able to leverage his fallout through Twitter and all the social media following he got into a new show opportunity, and also ‘Two and a Half Men’ [got] a new resurgence in interest because of all the conversation on Twitter,” said Rajiv Menon, a cultural analyst at TruthCo. “But at the same time, there’s always the chance of alienating fans.”

What actors have inherently is the support of their followers, consisting mostly of a dedicated fanbase. Social media can be used as a platform to get their version of the story directly to the fans.

Melissa McCarthy is one famous case of an actress who has taken to Twitter twice in recent memory in the wake of bad news about her shows. When “Mike and Molly” was canceled, McCarthy tweeted that she was “shocked and heartbroken” by the news, and would have loved to do the show for several more seasons, dispelling any whisper that her stratospheric movie career had anything to do with the show ending.

Ditto when speculation about her return for the “Gilmore Girls” reboot called into question her busy schedule.

“Thanks for the invite, but sadly no one asked me or Sookie to come back to Stars Hollow,” she answered a fan on Twitter, who was pleading for her return. “Wish them all the best!!”

Arden Cho, an actress on MTV’s “Teen Wolf,” has not officially left the show, but alluded to some unrest with decisions being made beyond her control.

“Just know that I have no choice or power,” she said in a lengthy Instagram reply to a fan detailing all the ways she’s committed to “Teen Wolf,” including turning down other projects. “The writers and producers make all the decisions. All I can do is show up and act. If I had a choice it might be different.”

The comment was vague and understated, but fans still took offense upon the actress’s behalf, sending the phrase “Respect for Arden Cho” trending worldwide.

“RESPECT FOR ARDEN CHO because the execs/writers of teen wolf refuse to treat like her like a MAIN cast member and always sideline her,” one fan said. “Arden has declined so many projects and sacrificed a lot eg her ytchannel for teen wolf yet she’s still treated poorly.”

Ricky Whittle, currently a series regular on “The 100,” has also been taking subtle digs at his show and showrunner Jason Rothenberg.

Even Whittle’s mother got in on the action, saying over a series of tweets, “Finally got full story from my son,@JRothenbergTV should be ashamed! Disgusting behaviour from grown man & one in ‘power to an honest person… I hope he shares the sad truth so u all understand why he had to walk away. Nobody should have to deal with bullies alone, talk to someone.”

“He doesn’t deserve this, so sad to see him go but it’s better for him. Protect Ricky at all costs,” replied one fan, sharing a common sentiment.

Whittle has most likely left “The 100,” which is currently airing its third season, and was recently cast as the lead on Starz’s adaptation of “American Gods.”

A far cry from Sheen’s attention-seeking ways, actors who potentially faced real issues on their projects — particularly if they are persons of color, like Cho and Whittle, can use social media platforms as a way of starting important conversations.

“If there are serious problems, like employee discrimination, issues with casting, stuff like that, there’s a real chance to get quite a bit of cultural sympathy,” Menon said. “To be really engaged with these issues right now on social media, actually has a chance to really activate an audience that way.”

In a complete 180 from speaking out, Rothenberg himself has retreated into silence in recent days following a particularly controversial episode of “The 100,” wherein a lesbian character was killed off. A large sector of the show’s LGBT fanbase channeled their anger and social media power into collecting over $45,000 thus far for the Trevor Project — all while Rothenberg stayed disengaged.

“There are people who are taking that strategy increasingly on social media, silence as a way of refusing to let Twitter run the conversation for them,” Menon continued. “I think a lot of showrunners are increasingly trying to keep that distance, in an age where fans have absolute access to everything going on in the show.”