Why I should center myself before tweeting

You have probably already heard of Justine Sacco, the former public relations executive for IAC, the parent company of websites such as Match.com, OkCupid and About.com, who was sacked from her position for a blithely insensitive tweet she made right before boarding a plane for Africa in mid-December. The tweet spread rapidly and IAC was quick to distance itself from the executive, blasting the tweet as “outrageous.”

Justine Sacco

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It seems common sense to avoid doing what Sacco and others have done, but this ‘shoot first, aim later’ approach to tweeting is all too common nowadays. We can’t make it through a 24 hour news cycle without a high-profile celebrity or company executive tweeting something that lands them in the media hot seat until the next person makes the same mistake and the spotlight shifts. Even seasoned PR professionals aren’t spared from this sort of embarrassment by clicking “post” too soon.

So what should people do? How can you avoid being the next poster child for ill-advised social media behavior?

Stop. Read it. Walk away. Read it again.

I understand that Twitter is real-time. We all want to be the first person to tweet about a current event, but this very thing that makes Twitter the great platform it is can also lead us down a path to career self destruction. We need to pause and read all of our tweets carefully with multiple audiences in mind, not just our closest friends, to consider how those different audiences may interpret our tweets. Many people go through this thought process but all too often it happens after a tweet has been posted (your tweet will then mysteriously disappear but not before someone gets a screenshot – take a look at this one from last week’s Rose Bowl for example). Why not save yourself a headache, and possibly your job, by thinking about it for just a few seconds before posting it live? If you’re debating whether or not to post it for more than 10 seconds then it might be best just to play it safe and not tweet.

Don’t Be Insensitive

It seems like every time a tragedy occurs, there is always at least one company who will try to market themselves via Twitter by leveraging the tragedy. For example, take a look at this Epicurious tweet from the Boston Marathon bombings in which they suggested that people eat a cranberry scone in honor of Boston. Really?!

If there is a tragedy occurring somewhere in the world, don’t make a joke out of it for personal gain; it’s better to keep any jokes about human suffering to yourself. Don’t use a tragic incident to leverage and market your product or service – it’s bound to do more harm than good.

Don’t Tweet About Contentious Issues

Try not to tweet about divisive issues in our society such as same sex marriage, immigration, etc. It’s always best not to start a war on Twitter with a follower who could bait you into firing off more misguided tweets in a fit of rage. Leave this up to the pundits on CNN.

Control Your Emotions, Don’t Let Your Emotions Control You

People get caught up in the moment; they get passionate. When this happens it can cause someone to tweet something offensive. We may realize that our emotions got the best of us shortly after sending a tweet, but, again, there is always the high probability that someone out there got a screenshot of your tweet that will then live forever in cyberspace. It’s always best to take a step back when we are in an emotional state and think about what we want to say or simply not say anything at all on such a public platform.

Instances like the ones above remind us just how important it is to watch what we tweet. Perhaps a friendly client reminder or a staff social media boot camp might be a good idea. Like Steve Martin recently said, “It’s your brain, a button, then millions of reactions.” These reactions can cost you your job or customers.

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