By Janet Fouts
No, this isn’t another diatribe against Justine Sacco, I think she’s had enough. It’s a gentle reminder, dear reader, to watch your mouth in public. Cuz that’s what Twitter is you know, it’s public. I don’t care what social network you’re on actually, or who you are, if you wouldn’t say it to a crowd in Times Square with your Mom in the audience, just don’t say it, unless you want a call from Mom. A little social media etiquette is in order.
What happened to Justine Sacco could easily happen to you. She had barely 200 followers on Twitter, but Vallywag editor Sam Biddle amplified it considerably with a post by mentioning the name of the company she worked for and it went viral. While probably sleeping on a long flight to South Africa the world went ballistic all over her. People dug up past things she’d said and vilified her with outrage on pretty much every network online and off. And she wasn’t there to defend herself.
Now, I said this post wasn’t about Ms. Sacco and it isn’t. Historically there have been plenty of other social media faux pas that have also gotten major coverage. When an agency person from Ketchum advertising landed in Memphis in 2009 and said “True Confession but I’m in one of those towns where I scratch my head and say “I would die if I had to live here!“. A Fed Ex employee saw it on Twitter and shared it with senior staff of Fed Ex, the company he was there to work with. The response was predictable from Fed Ex and yet another face-palm event for those of us who watch these things. Again a social media watcher, this time Peter Shenkman, amplified it and it went viral and ended up covered by major news networks like CBS.
And what about Kenneth Cole who seems to have decided that any buzz is good buzz?
“Boots on the ground” or not, let’s not forget about sandals, pumps and loafers. #Footwear
— Kenneth Cole (@KennethCole) September 5, 2013
What to do if this does happen to you?
1. Be listening. Many times you can put the fire out if you are paying attention. This goes for something someone else says as well. Set up those social listening tools. Don’t tweet and then get on a 14 hour plane flight.
2. Correct the mistake. Apologize if appropriate.We all make mistakes, honest mistakes can be forgiven. Even stupid ones.
Steve Martin realized almost immediately that one of his mis-tweets was causing trouble, and removed it and then apologized.
@CourtneyHammett @KCGibbons @SteveMartinToGo pic.twitter.com/rz861oplkM
— Cindy (@JustCindeh) December 21, 2013
3. Read before you send. Read your tweets aloud before you click send. If in doubt delete or re-phrase.
4. Don’t ever post under the influence. Of anything.
In 2011 when some Red Cross were taking a break in the middle of a very difficult time and posted an unfortunate tweet they acted quickly to apologize and put a human voice to the apology on their website.
Because of how quickly they responded they diffused the situation and we forgave them easily. The Red Cross has learned how to use the power of social media to manage any number of situations. They are always listening for opportunities.
5. As always in a social situation. If you can’t say something nice say nothing.
6. If you should find yourself embedded in a social media nightmare keep your cool. Respond appropriately and if it’s possible to tell a positive angle on the story reach out to some of your social friends and ask for their support. Never, ever lash out in anger and fan the flames.
Nothing you say online is private. Even in a “private” group if someone can copy and paste it; it’s public. You may delete it, but it lives on if any single person anywhere has copied or shared it. No matter what anyone tells you, there is not privacy on the internet.