Twitter can be a powerful tool for leaders, brands, and job-seekers–but a few missteps can undo the best online presence.
These tips from MediaShift are geared toward journalists, but are wise practices for anyone in the public eye. Some people had to learn these lessons the hard way.
Twitter isn’t the place to vent your every frustration. It can be a useful tool for customer service complaints, but tread carefully when airing a grievance publicly. Isolating your audience with political and religious views will have them hitting “unfollow” before you can find the “delete tweet” button.
Case and point: Radio producer Chadd Scott’s tweets about a delayed flight got him fired before he landed.
A television sports broadcaster was dismissed after tweeting opinions about same-sex marriage.
The examples of running too much mouth online could go on and on.
A balance of work, personal, and niche content makes the perfect feed, says Wells Dunbar, online editor at University of Texas at Austin’s public radio station KUT Texas.
“The Twitter rule of threes: One part your topic area, one part links to your work or employer links, and one part you.”
You don’t have to tell your life’s story in your bio space, but make it clear what you’re about.
It’s tempting to have separate accounts for your personal life and work life. But nothing is truly private online-treat everything online like your bosses are watching, because they probably are.
Case and point: Jofi Joseph, a national security staffer, thought he could get away with demeaning, snarky commentary via an anonymous account.
Tone is a tricky thing online. You may think you’re being witty or light-hearted, but read in a completely different light by a thousand other people. Who you follow is also public information–and with some Twitter tools, broadcast with an activity feed to your audience.
Case and point: The UK Prime Minister David Cameron was mocked when the media found out he was following an escort service (the PM could teach a master class on social media face-palm moments–if he could manage to stop himself from embarrassing selfies and Facebook faux pas).
“Retweets, like tweets, should not be written in a way that looks like you’re expressing a personal opinion on the issues of the day,” warns the Associated Press in their guidelines for social media use. “A retweet with no comment of your own can easily be seen as a sign of approval of what you’re relaying.”
Don’t be too trigger-happy with retweeting information that’s not yet confirmed. Even national media outlets can get the facts twisted in the heat of a breaking story. Waiting a few moments to spread information could save face when the whole picture is brought to light.
Case and point: The AP gives these examples in their guide.
DON’T: RT @jonescampaign: Smith’s policies would destroy our schools.
DO: Jones campaign now denouncing Smith on education. RT @jonescampaign:
Smith’s policies would destroy our schools.
This goes doubly for Twitter as in life: Don’t prey on tragedy or unfortunate circumstances to gain footing for your brand. It only takes one misguided tweet to turn your embarrassing moment into a viral screenshot. If you do make a mistake like this, it’s better to own it than try to scrub it from the Internet or make excuses.
Case and point: Epicurious suggested Bostonians try a bowl of cereal for “much needed energy” following the marathon bombings:
A full-scale PR meltdown followed.