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Context isn’t guaranteed: And other lessons from Twitter mistakes early into 2019

|February 08, 2019
Context isn’t guaranteed: And other lessons from Twitter mistakes early into 2019

Rocco Rossi is a well-known Torontonian, who has raised thousands of dollars for many charitable causes, has run for office, and has served in a number of high-profile positions.

Sunny D is a beloved drink that has been a staple in many children’s lunch bags since the 80s.

What do these two have in common? They’ve both learned that context is not always clear when it comes to social media.

On New Year’s Eve, Rossi tweeted “Celebrating New Year’s the 1-percenter way! Let them eat cake: -),” enhancing the text with pictures of a bottle of very expensive Veuve Clicquot champagne, caviar on toast and a selection of fancy pastries.

His tweet was interpreted as mocking hard-working Ontarians and those less fortunate than he, and attracted a storm of criticism. He quickly apologized and deleted it, but the damage was already done.

This incident provides a cautionary tale of how easily life can go sideways, especially as a public figure, by not thinking through a tweet before it’s posted.

As for Sunny D, trying to get in on the Super Bowl Sunday action, the brand tweeted “I can’t do this anymore.” This was intended to be a reference to the fact that the game was so boring.

But Sunny D’s tweet, rather than being funny or provocative, left many people (and fellow lunchbox staples) confused, wondering what left the tangy beverage in such despair.

Context is key

If there is anything to be learned about these two tweets, it’s that context isn’t always clear in the social world.

Ask yourself if what you’re about to tweet will be confusing without context, is insensitive, could alienate someone, could be misconstrued, or if it could possibly take away from your brand. If the answer is even “maybe” to any of the above questions, you should revise what you’re about to share or reconsider posting altogether.

You should also be counting to 10 or 20 or 30 before posting a tweet. In other words, do a gut check and don’t be so quick to push send. In today’s digital age, we’re always in a rush to be the one to post first, but it’s often wiser to think twice; and only post once. Doing so will save you from your next tweet having to be the dreaded apology tweet.

Here are a few other points to consider when using social media:

Check your facts: Make sure you do your research on any topics or hashtags you’re planning to post about. What may seem like a fun opportunity to insert yourself into a trending topic may end up making you seem completely insensitive simply by not taking the time to fully understand what is being discussed.

Audit access to your accounts: Brands and public figures alike should make a habit of continually reviewing who has access to post to each social channel. By knowing who has access, you can more easily investigate and resolve any slip-ups.

Don’t get heated online: When an incident does happen, it’s important to keep a level-head once the comments start rolling in. Even if your intention is to clarify and de-escalate, emotions can run high and your replies can end up causing additional damage.

NATIONAL’s social media training is not meant to damper your enthusiasm to use social media, which is such a powerful means of communication. Rather, our training is aimed at educating as to how social media can be used properly and appropriately to enhance your brand or communicate important information.

We arm you with strategies and tactics that can be employed on all social media platforms, from LinkedIn to Twitter to Facebook and Instagram. We show you which platforms work best for what messages and when to engage and when to back off.

——— Anne Stubbert is a former Manager, Digital Strategy at NATIONAL Public Relations