If the Justine Sacco case showed us anything, it’s that people are still not fully aware of the potential ramifications of their comments on Twitter. Those using branded accounts or with a company title in their profile can act as de-facto spokespeople for your business, and writing ‘views are my own’ in their description might not negate collateral damage to your brand.
So while we generally know not to post inappropriate content, there are a few unwritten Twitter rules that probably need to be noted, just as a refresher for those with their mouse pointers hovering over that ‘Tweet’ tab, ready to fire off something they’re not 100% sure they should.
The five rules go like this:
1. Thou shalt refrain from using thy brand profile to Tweet personal updates. Use your personal profile for that – or better yet, your personal Facebook profile with relevant privacy settings in place. Don’t share news about your favourite sports team or your son’s first word, this is the place for business updates and information relevant to your business followers - always keep the audience in mind. Social media is about establishing connections to foster ongoing relationships, spamming your followers with content they have no interest in is not likely to endear them to your brand. Also, if you’re in the public eye, or your personal profile has alignment to your brand, maybe avoid using Twitter to send questionable content.
Cautionary tale: Anthony Weiner’s recreational activities
2. Thou shalt reconsider tweeting uponst consuming too much ale – We’re all on social media all the time - your iPhone’s right there in your pocket, waiting to be checked, but sometimes you do need to disconnect. Sure, most people can handle their drink and it’s generally not a problem, but just a consideration for those with access to a brand Twitter account.
Cautionary tale: American Red Cross ‘#gettngslizzerd’ Tweet
3. Thou shalt confirm thou art logged out of thy brand profile before tweeting – Have you ever sent out an e-mail then noticed that you’d CC’d a person or group you really didn’t mean to? I imagine that feeling is similar to the one you get after sending out a personal message from your brand Twitter account. It’s been blamed for a raft of Twitter fails over the years, including Microsoft’s Ann Coulter controversy. Make sure you double-check where you’re sending from before pressing ‘Tweet’, it could spare you a world of pain.
Cautionary tale: KitchenAid ‘Obama’s Grandma’ Tweet
4. Thou shalt maintain thy awareness of world events and trending topics – An ill-timed Tweet can become a major PR disaster. There’s no way to 100% protect against this, but worth checking the trending topics, and what the actual story is behind it, and paying attention to news events to avoid potential mis-associations with your content.
Cautionary tale: Celeb Boutique’s ‘Aurora’ mis-understanding
5. Thou shalt eliminate negativity from thine Tweets. This is no joke, and one which we should attempt to apply as widely as possible. You remember how your parents used to say ‘if you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all?’ Yep, that. There’s no reason for, or benefit to, negativity on Twitter. You don’t like want someone’s saying, you stop following them. Don’t engage in any bashing of competitors or making critical comments. Your brand Twitter profile should remain positive and focussed on your company strategy. Sometimes you may have to respond to an unhappy client, but keep in mind that Twitter is a public forum, everything you or your representatives Tweet is out there for the world to see. If an exchange is at risk of getting heated, advise the client that you will connect with them in a more private forum.
In a broader sense, social media is a new world, in relative terms, and the ethical boundaries of it have not yet been set. By working to eliminate negativity, we can create a new normal, through weight of majority, where negative comments are simply not acceptable practice. You can never take back something that’s been said in person, but you can re-read a Tweet before sending. No negativity on Twitter. No place for it. Let’s make that a goal for the new year.
(Twitter rules / shutterstock)