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For Rush Limbaugh advertisers, backlash could hit hard in social media age

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(Read caption) Georgetown University law student and activist Sandra Fluke (c.) speaks to co-hosts Joy Behar (l.) and Sherri Shepherd during an appearance on the daytime talk show, 'The View,' Monday in New York. Fluke talked about conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who insulted her on his radio program.

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Let’s call it old media versus new media.

On one side, there is conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh doing what made him famous on the airwaves – throwing incendiary word bombs. This time, he dubbed a Georgetown University law student a “slut” and a "prostitute” after she said at a congressional hearing that insurance should cover contraceptives.   

On the other side, a one-two punch: social media amplifying the concerns of a wave of protesters – particularly women – railing against what they saw as outdated misogyny.

In recent days, more than three dozen companies, including such big names as Sears, JCPenney, AOL, and Netflix have pulled their support for Mr. Limbaugh's show.

Did the social media campaigns force companies' hands? That's debatable. What is more certain is that as corporate America reaches out into social media more aggressively to market itself and tell its stories, that action opens it up to an occasional opposite reaction: vulnerability to having the medium turned against itself.

Social media sites such as BoycottRush.org and Limbaugh boycott pages on Facebook and Reddit have provided readers with step-by-step instructions for how to vent their displeasure at advertisers. And with companies striving to use the interconnectedness of social media to their advantage, they have to act more quickly and decisively than in the past to counter negative associations.

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