Monday, October 1, 2012

To Tweet or Not to Tweet, Often There is No Question

I’ll never pretend to be an expert on social media, but those of us in the PR business can’t avoid learning a good bit about it if not through effort, maybe through a form of working osmosis.

It’s with that in mind that I do want to touch on a Twitter topic.  The social media site has made more than a few headlines for its role in everything from helping people involved in natural or man-made catastrophes, to being a platform that celebrities and others use to get themselves into trouble.

It seems the topic most people talk most about when it comes to Twitter is about the fiascos people can create for themselves.

I read a blog post recently about “Tweets that will incite a PR Firestorm.”  It was on Ragan’s PR Daily site, and it listed some “real-life” examples of these kinds of tweets.  I’ll list a couple from the blog post here:

“True confession but I’m in one of those towns where I scratch my head and say ‘I would die if I had to live here.’”

That tweet was authored by a Ketchum staffer who was in Memphis for a meeting with Ketchum client FedEx.  According to the report, the client spotted the tweet and didn’t like it.  The agency had to apologize.

As an aside, during my time at Ketchum, I made that trip weekly for a period of time and really liked the people and the town.  Still, if you ever find yourself in town you don’t like, you have to expect you’ll offend your hosts if you tweet about it.

“I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f*** drive.”

The originator of that tweet was a social media manager from an agency that worked for Chrysler.  He actually tweeted that by mistake, not from his personal Twitter account, but rather from the official Chrysler Twitter page. 

Two lessons here.  If you manage more than one account, keep them straight.  And second, it’s just not a good idea to slam your host city where your client lives (once again).

This one is my favorite.  It’s from a Secret Service employee: “Had to monitor Fox for a story.  Cant’. Deal. With. The. Blathering.” 

First off, according to the blog post, Fox News “had a field day” with that.  The Secret Service had to apologize.  Not sure what happened to the no-longer-secret-Secret-Service-agent.

And that brings me to the master lesson of all these examples.  There are some people who should never tweet.  There are some things that should never be tweeted.  And there are some times when we should never tweet.

I read some of the comments after the blog and the one that stuck out for me was the one that asked why anyone with the word “Secret” in the name of his or her employer would even think of going public with his gripes on Twitter.

I’d take it a step further.  Think of all social media, including Twitter, as your own personal Super Bowl commercial.  Once you tweet the most innocent of things, it has access to millions of people.  Sure, most may not see it, but if it’s precisely stupid enough, it could rival a Super Bowl ad in terms of readership.

So, if you are in a job where it wouldn’t be a good idea to do a Super Bowl ad about it, you may want to avoid Twitter and other social media altogether.  If that’s too difficult, consider a career change. 

And if you feel it would be good to get the kind of visibility a Super Bowl ad would create, then put the same amount of care and caution into the content of your Tweet.  Think of the worst thing that can happen before you click on that blue “Tweet” button.  If you hesitate in any way, delete the tweet.  Chances are you made the right choice. 

Keep in mind, all attempts at humor are just that - attempts.  They often fail, sometimes to disastrous results.  Plus, you weren’t going to win a Pulitzer Prize for your opinion of the local dinner fare anyway.

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