August 23, 2011

#Oops

Accidental tweets are easy fodder for journalists.

Have you ever posted something you regret on your Facebook or Twitter? Maybe you posted an inside joke on someone’s wall that was supposed to be for their inbox. Or you tweeted a quote after a long night out that wasn’t as funny in the morning. Or — my personal favorite — you searched for someone on your Blackberry Facebook app, without realizing you posted his or her name as your status?

These little slip-ups can usually be fixed with a quick delete — unless of course your mistake reached thousands of people under someone else’s name. Take Scott Bartosiewicz. Chrysler fired him after he tweeted on the @ChryslerAutos Twitter, “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f***ing drive.”

Gloria Huang tweeted on @RedCross about #gettingslizzered on Dogfish Head beer. Instead of firing her, however, the Red Cross tweeted, “We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys.”

When the Red Cross and Chrysler are allowing potentially offensive posts to instantly reach thousands of people, you have to wonder whether they’re approaching social media as cautiously as they should be. Just because a message is nonchalant doesn’t mean a company’s process for releasing it to the public should be. If employees can post something in the company’s name from their phones while they’re bored in traffic, something’s wrong. Accidental tweets are easy fodder for journalists — they’re ready-made sound bites. No difficult analysis, just a quick turnaround story that’ll make a headline writer’s day.

So, all you big companies out there — and all you smaller ones, too — it’s time to take social media seriously. Respect its power. Devise a strategy for how to use Twitter and Facebook and the rest to your advantage. Then implement a clear process for how to achieve it.

And lock up your f***ing Dogfish Head.

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