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I Cannot Believe You Just Tweeted That

Being Responsible In The Unruly Social Networking World

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Twitter Is Filled With Twits

Definition of Twit: To taunt, ridicule, or tease, especially for embarrassing mistakes or faults.

With the massive influx of thousands of new social networkers every day, the social world has become a bit unruly. People send out comments without thinking. They say things to strangers on line they would not say to them face-to-face.
There are even words for people who purposely (or by nature) stir up trouble on social networks: flamers and trolls.

Sometimes it is hard to differentiate between someone who is sincerely upset by a tweet, and someone who is deliberately trying to start trouble.

Scout Willis (daughter of Demi Moore and Bruce Willis) and two other students created a fake Twitter account and sent out inflammatory and outrageous tweets are part of a class experiment. Tweets included drug escapades, alleged nude photos, and rants about her hating her parents. The experiment was intended to show that the ruder people are, the more followers and retweets they will get.

Her experiment proved her theory correctly, as well, she also garnered considerable media attention over her tweets.

Willis' experiment should server as an important reminder - monitor your Twitter account for angry followers to you can do damage control before it spins wildly out of control. It also bodes well for your to think carefully before you tweet.

What Not To Tweet

Religion and Politics. Unless you want to incite hostile communications avoid tweeting about politics. You will offend at least some of the people. This is also true for religious values.

An exception to sticking to neutral tweets would be if your business model or purpose embraces and relies on political, religious, or moral positions.

Racial Slurs, Offensive Comments. Do not insult or repeat jokes or insults about women, men, or people that are often subject to stereotyping and profiling such as by race, ethnicity, weight, with a disability, or their sexual orientation. Unless your business needs to show support or any particular community or segment of society, don't classify people. Period. Gwyneth Paltrow made that mistake already when she tweeted using the "n" word.

Guilt By Association. Even if you did not say it, if you follow offensive Twitterers, you may be found guilty by association. Take time to build a community with a purpose other than to simply get more followers for yourself by randomly following other people. Before you follow someone, read at least a weeks' worth of their posts.

Keep It Professional. It annoys me when I read personal tidbits on a professional Twitter feed. We don't care if you finally found time to get your dog groomed, or made an appointment with a masseuse or it is your 10th anniversary. We also do not want to hear about every moment of your professional day - don't keep tweeting "just met with new client… very excited." We aren't.

Tweets That Led To Trouble

A few examples of tweets gone bad include:

President Obama's grandmother Madelyn Dunham passed away in November 2008 before Barack Obama took office as president. @KitchenAidUSA tweeted the following highly offensive tweet before deleting it and sending out apologies:
"Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! 'She died 3 days b4 he became president"."??? Wow!" #nbcpolitics

In 2011, singer Rhianna, began using a four letter word beginning with the letter "c" - one instance involved quipping back to a Twitter tweeter who insulted her hair. Outraged parents publically denounced Rhianna as a bad role model for her young fans.

On February 5, 2009, Congressman Peter Hoekstra tweeted he had arrived in Baghdad during a congressional delegation led by House Minority Leader John Boehner that was supposed to be secret. Rather than own up to his social mistake, Hoekstra denied any wrongdoing bringing into question national security protocol.

Three Things To Do If You Mis-Tweeted

Delete the offending tweet. The longer your "oops" tweet remains live, the more retweets will occur. As soon as you detect a problem, delete it!

Apologize. Make your apology sincere. Do not blame your followers with apologies such as "we at ACME Company did not think our audience would be so offended by our comments." It is better to frame things with accountability, "it was not our intention to offend anyone and we sincerely apologize if our message was misunderstood or came across as offensive in any way."
Sometimes, but not always, it helps to clarify a message, such as using an incorrect source. Occasionally, holding someone accountable also helps but be sure to never make someone a scapegoat - it will only make you, and your company look worse.

Let it rest. As hard as it is to just drop the subject, the more you address your misstep the longer the situation will continue to buzz with conversation. People tire of controversy fairly quickly unless you fan the fire. Know when to just let your community talk it out and when to step in.

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