How To Avoid Accidental Tweets & Disasters

April 1, 2011
By Lisa Barone in Social Media

Working in social media is great… most of the time. The times when you’re not juggling multiple social accounts and when the persona-filled conversations aren’t making you feel even more bipolar and panicked than normal. Because even though social media gives us a great opportunity to converse and be creative, it gives us an equally compelling opportunity to fall flat on our face in front of an audience just waiting to see it happen. Despite all our best intentions, things often have a way of going very, very awry in social media.

Looking for examples? Well, most recently the @redcross got slizzerd, @ChryslerAutos had expletives for #motorcity, Marc Jacobs’ intern had a Twitter meltdown, and @KennethCole found a new way to get his Spring line some publicity. They were all great case studies of the absolute havoc a single 140-character message can cause to your brand. And if they seem like extreme examples, they weren’t.

One of the most common way many of us find ourselves in trouble in social media is through accidental tweeting. When a tweet we meant for one accounts (usually a small personal account) is oh-so-accidentally sent from a corporate or client account either by freak accident, sloppy behavior or a combination of the two. But it doesn’t have to happen to you. You can be smarter.

Below you’ll find some tips to help you reduce the odds that you’ll suffer a horrible (and public) social media fail at the hands of accidental tweeting. It just may save your life one day. Or, at least, your job.

How can you protect yourself (and your clients)?

Befriend different browsers for different needs: Since Outspoken Media offers social media consulting, it’s not unusual for me or any of our employees to have our hands in multiple accounts in any given day. To ensure that we don’t expose our clients to any accidental tweets or social media fails, employees are encouraged to use different browsers for different needs. For example, it means I personally use different browsers for client social media use, personal use and company use. Is it a pain in the butt to switch browsers and whip out Internet Explorer every now and then? Sure. But you know what would be more annoying? Having to explain to a client why I’m on their Twitter account talking about my parking spot wars.

…also use different mobile apps: Need to tweet for your company from your phone while on the go? Do yourself a favor and download a separate Twitter app to help you do it. Do not try and switch between accounts via one platform as it’s far too easy to hit the wrong button or drunkenly navigate yourself to the wrong area. If possible, I’d also recommend HIDING the company account from your phone’s main screen so that you need to search with a purpose to access it. Again, it may seem like an annoyance, better safe than sorry when it comes to exposing your clients or your own brand to harm.

Don’t stay logged into client/company social media accounts: If you’re working in a client’s Twitter or Facebook account, be in that account. When you’re done or you’re going to move on to a different project, LOG OUT OF THE ACCOUNT. Do not allow yourself to save log-in information or to remain logged in while you go do something else. Why not? Because at some point you’re going to get distracted. You’re going to head to Perez Hilton to take a mental break and see a cute story about some dimpled celebrity child. And then later you’re going to have to explain to your boss or your client why it is you liked a story about Suri Cruise from their Facebook account or why you left a comment on that Kim Kardashian article as them. That’s not a conversation you want to have and you also don’t want to expose your client to people who may be monitoring their social media activity.

Use smarter tools: Luckily, many of the social media tool providers are now accounting for our how fallible we are as humans. For example, just this week Hootsuite added a new feature designed to protect brand messaging for enterprises called Secure Profiles. The idea here is that now owners can designate certain profiles (think: your work accounts) as “secure” so that you’ll have to confirm your tweet before it’s published, thereby making social media so idiot proof most of us can actually do it. The tool was actually created in response to the recent social media mess-ups, which Hootsuite says “caused marketplace confusion and affected brand sentiment – and they were all preventable”.

The above should do a fairly good job of helping keep you (and your brand) safe in social media waters. However, if social media has reminded us anything, it’s that we are human. So, what should you do when you ignore the separate browser rule and tweet something awful on your company account?

  • Act Quickly: If you don’t know how to delete a tweet from your phone, learn. Right now, before you need it.
  • Admit the error: We all saw what you did. Even if the tweet where you made that crude joke about your boyfriend’s mother on your company account was only live for 5 seconds – we saw you. Don’t just delete the tweet and pretend it didn’t happen.
  • Use humor, if appropriate: If your brand can pull off quirky humor, now would be a good time to use it. The Red Cross, for example, leveraged this wonderfully after its own mess up. If your brand isn’t known for having a sense of humor or you totally went off the deep end Kenneth Cole-style, do not attempt to be pithy now. Just say you’re sorry.
  • Don’t let it happen again: People will forgive your stupidity once. After that, you better have a process in place for how you’ll never let it happen again.
  • Read Jay Baer’s post on The 3 Types of Self-Destructive Corporate Tweets for further advice.

Mistakes in social media are going to happen. What’s important is that we do everything in our power that we can to act smartly and to take blame, when the situation arises.

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