A Social Media Avalanche

By Nicholas Solomon

For those who live in the public eye, sure footing on social media can be hard to find.  Many lose their purchase and fall from grace.  A superb example of social media sites becoming a courtroom of public opinions was during the Bill Cosby rape allegations.  Humble beginnings became an avalanche that buried Cosby’s reputation, career, and legacy.

Image Source (Hannibal Buress)

On October 16, 2014 Hannibal Buress, a stand-up comedian, performed jokes mocking Bill Cosby for lecturing the black community whilst having rape allegations leaved against Cosby.  The next day, a person uploaded a video of the set to the Philadelphia Magazine’s website.  From there, the story was picked up by Buzzfeed.  Shortly after, social media sites were sent into an uproar with opinions and facts and rhetoric.


For Bill Cosby, who would have been hoping the story died out like the ones before, this was a crisis.  His public image is/ was his brand.  He remained silent in hopes that the story would blow over.  It did not blow out.  Instead, more women accused him of rape.  Very soon, there were over twenty women accusing Cosby of sexual assault.

Image Source (Bill Cosby)

With his public image slipping further and further, Cosby made his move.  Cosby asked the internet and social media users to meme him with the hashtag: #CosbyMeme.  It was a horrendous social media failure.  The memes people came up with were not usually in Cosby’s favor.  Check some of them out here.

More on the timeline for how the story broke: Here

Five days after Hannibal Buress’ October 16th performance in Philidelphia, Buress tweeted, “Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean that really got out of hand fast.”

Cosby’s response, to the allegations against him, left a lot to be desired.  The long silence before defending himself helped the story continue to grow.  Then fanning the flames, with an ill-advised social media campaign (#CosbyMeme), destroyed any hope he had to stop the avalanche that may have proved fatal to his career.


Yu, R. (2014, November 25). Social Media, Publicity Whirl Gave Traction to Cosby Scandal. Retrieved February 5, 2017, from http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/11/25/social-media-kept-cosby-story-alive/70100742/

Zhang, M. (2014, November 11). Bill Cosby’s Social Media #Fail. Retrieved February 5, 2017, from http://www.adweek.com/digital/bill-cosbys-social-media-fail/


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UNT Eagle Strategies

Class members of the social media class in the Mayborn School of Journalism