Social media may make or break a company, a truism underscored most recently by Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Musk triggered a major backlash from company shareholders while smoking cannabis and sipping whiskey on the popular podcast “Joe Rogan Experience.” While recreational cannabis is legal in California, where the filming took place, many feel that Musk violated Tesla company policy by being intoxicated while on the job.
The video of Musk indulging in alcohol and cannabis was posted onto Rogan’s YouTube channel and has generated more than three million views in under 24 hours. Many of the comments on the video appear to be positive, but Tesla’s stock price tells a different tale. The day after the video was posted, Tesla’s stock sunk by as low as 9 percent and closed down at 6 percent.
Ironically, during the filming, Rogan questions Musk if smoking on air would affect his appearance, to which he responds, “It’s legal right?”
The United States Air Force is looking into Musk’s cannabis use, another possible reason why shareholders might sell. Musk is the CEO of SpaceX which provides services for the Air Force and cannabis usage is prohibited for those with a government security clearance.
Musk’s interview on YouTube is not the only social media site where the CEO has stumbled. Following the rescue of a soccer team trapped inside a cave last July in Thailand, Musk found himself in an unusual Twitter feud with British diver, Vernon Unsworth. Throughout a series of tweets, Unsworth voiced that he thought Musk’s help with the search and rescue was a “PR stunt.” Musk responded by calling Unsworth a “pedo guy.” Unsworth is pursuing legal action for the false and defamatory claims.
While not destroyed, Tesla’s reputation has been tarnished. Musk is not public relations practitioner, but he’s smart enough to realize he is the face of the company. If more cautious with his social media activity, Tesla’s drop in stock price may have been avoided.